I hear it quite often.
"You're hot ... for a black girl."
And to be honest, I'm almost 100 percent sure I received the same "compliment" during adolescence. You know, that juncture within your life when incessant ☆NSYNC paraphernalia and Boy Meets World quotations were in style.
But hey, let's be real - Boy Meets World is still spectacular.
In fact, I think that's how it all began, the inception of my love of interracial relationships.
Shawn and Angela were perfect.
Shawn Hunter, occasional screw up and misguided youth with an open heart, meets Angela Moore during his later years of high school. Unexpectedly, he falls for her, viewing her as more than just his usual two-week randevú.
For him, she represented strength, independence and more imperatively, the epitome of what it meant to have a relationship like Cory's and Topanga's.
I too fell in love with the glamour of two individuals from completely different walks of life blending together - on ABC during the 1990s, might I add. I related to Angela's shortcomings, her ethnicity and the fact that, like her, I too was often the signature black girl in the room.
And while my parents sometimes playfully struggled with my, in their terms (jokingly of course) "white boy fetish," I persevered, genially inspired by interracial love - no fetish, just admiration.
I mean all forms of interracial love, whether it be black with white, indian with polish - you name it and I love it.
But I return to the ever-popular compliment I so commonly receive: "You're hot ... for a black girl."
At one time in my life, I suppose I found it flattering.
Nowadays, I cannot say the same.
I guess I shouldn't take it personal. If you take a look at Hollywood, light-skinned women are the dominators. Take your pick - Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce - the list goes on. Now, you have Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave in case you need a reminder, and honestly, I find her stunning.
But as stunningly beautiful as Nyong'o is, she's no stranger to colorism, an issue she comment-ed on in Glamour's 2014 December issue. She explained European standards of beauty give the illusion darker skin is not beautiful.
She's unfortunately correct.
And to give some context without giving a full-blown history lesson, I'll briefly highlight slavery during the antebellum period. Nineteenth-century enslaved light-skinned women often worked within the home because aesthetically, within the eyes of some slave masters, "light" was con-sidered beautiful, according to American Studies at the University of Virginia in an article titled Mythification of the Mammy Figure.
Enslaved women who were darker most likely worked in the fields, away from the home.
My highlight of historical skin tone stratification is further reinforced by Margaret Hunter, in her essay, published July 24, 2012, titled The Consequences of Colorism. Hunter notes:
The European colonial project attempted to replace indigenous cultures with European ones by denigrating indigenous people, religions and aesthetics. The cul-tural meanings now associated with skin tone and facial features are based on historical colonial ideologies about civility, modernity, sophistication, backwardness, beauty and virtue.
Fast forward to 2015, where pop culture generally depicts "beauty," as Nyong'o so eloquently stated, under a more European illustration.
This societal attitude isn't inadvertent.
I'm not painting a painful past of enslavement just to be a pest. Nor am I stating slavery is the culprit for disruption of the color line. I'm not placing blame on any race in particular. Oh, and please do not interpret my words as some sort of slam against white individuals.
However, there's something to be said about the negative status quo regarding black women of all shades.
Frankly, there should not be a divide between those who are light versus those who are dark - such a separation shouldn't exist. And educating "dark-skinned" women on how to feel good about themselves while combatting "light-skinned privilege" - whatever that means - shouldn't even be a concept.
It's a problem that for years, I begged my mother to spend hundreds of dollars on extensions so my hair would resemble more of a white woman's because after all, that's what I perceived men wanted. It's more of a problem I repeatedly accepted the comment: "You're not too dark so it's fine."
Thankfully, adulthood has changed my hair and my perspective.
It's certainly all right to have a preference. But for once in my life, and I'm sure others can attest, it would be lovely for someone to find me beautiful for me.
Not simply because I'm hot ... "for a black girl."
In my experience, men have also made comments such as "Well, I've never tried a black girl before," as if we're some scandalous cuisine they've yet to delve into. And I've also been told I'm not too dark so therefore, aesthetically, I pass.
Huzzah (blatant sarcasm).
Now, I can take a joke, although based on this piece, it may appear I have a severe case of anal retention.
Well, maybe so but if you've made it to the grand finale of my convictions, I encourage you to methodically dissect how you define beauty. Take a step away from the norms of photoshopped women in bikinis and cake-faced sweethearts.
Examine the love between Shawn and Angela, because that, was real. Well actually, it was Rider Strong and Trina McGee giving wickedly brilliant performances.
Nonetheless, it appeared Shawn loved her, for her.