Part of the Problem
By Bianca Reagan on August 16, 2009
New friend: "Let's talk about your dating life."
Me: "Let's not. It's terrible."
New friend: "Really?"
Me: "Really. Guys aren't that into me."
New friend: "That's hard to believe. You're great!"
Me: "Yeah, I know. I am great. But . . ."
And then I never know exactly what to say after that, because the friend that I am talking to is rarely another black woman. So the friend does not fully comprehend the background of racism, sexism, colorism, sizeism, and general discrimination and bigotry that is involved when dating, specifically when dating in the United States. It is difficult to explain that, for many male people my age, the person I am on the outside--and sometimes on the inside--is unacceptable. I am not what they had in mind. I am not what they grew up with. Even if my packaging is what they grew up with, the image of me, to them, remains generally inferior; it is not an image which they aspire to have as a partner.
It is hard for me to encapsulate all that pain in one sentence. It would take weeks for my friend to exit their well-constructed comfort zone and learn about gender studies and the history of institutional racism in the US. Then that friend would also have to recognize and accept that those social phenomena continue to negatively affect people like me, despite the few exceptions to the many rules. Watching Killing Us Softly 3 by Jean Kilbourne would be a start. They could also read the posts below:
Tameka Raymond's HuffPo Op-Ed on Colorism Is A Must Read, by ActsofFaithBlog, Acts of Faith In Love and Life.
"She's Pretty for a Dark-Skinned Girl...", by Tameka J. Raymond, The Huffington Post. Emphases mine.
I am a dark-skinned African American woman with features that reflect my ancestry. Debates regarding Light vs. Dark and other biases have plagued our race for years and continues to impact millions of Black women. The deeply rooted intra-racial contempt that lies beneath this inane "compliment" is the reason I've chosen to spark dialogue surrounding the topic of self-hatred in our culture. It saturates every aspect of our lives, dominating the perspectives of our generation as a whole. We culturally are so influential, at times inadvertently, that we affect all with the words we utter and the images we portray. It lends to the theory of systemic racism. I'm authoring this piece because I'm miffed by this reality and would like to share my views on these subjects.
[ . . . ]
Often dark-skinned women are considered mean, domineering and standoffish and it was these very labels that followed Michelle Obama during the campaign for her husband's presidency and which she has had to work tirelessly to combat. I was appalled when I heard a Black woman refer to Michelle Obama as unattractive. The conversation turned into why President Obama picked her as his mate. No one in the witch-hunt made reference to the possibility that Michelle Obama was smart, funny, caring, a good person, highly accomplished or brilliant. Nor did they mention that she previously was President Obama's supervisor. If she were fair skinned, petite with long straight or wavy hair, would the same opinions be linked to her? I seriously doubt it. It is believed that for the dark skinned, dreams are less obtainable.
In fact, I have read similar comments about myself that I am "dark, aggressive, bossy and bitchy." It has been stated that my husband should have been with a "younger, more beautiful" woman. Astoundingly, the majority of the remarks come from African-American women and are mimicked by others. Sadly enough, I don't know nor have I met 99% of those making these assertions. Funny, how we can judge another without having personally seen, interacted with or experienced a person's character.
[ . . . ]
Reading magazines, social media sites, watching our music videos, and television shows feed our appetites for all things 'beauty". Rarely, however do I see depictions of grace and elegance in the form of dark complexioned women.
[ . . . ]
It is my hope that our First Lady and others who share in this effort will continue to be the beacon to shine a light for those who toil on America's beauty totem pole. Now don't get me wrong or take my words out of context. I truly believe that everyone has a right to delineate what they deem is attractive, but we must not confuse perceived "attractiveness" with authentic "beauty."
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