I remember years ago running into my long-time crush at the mall. I hadn't seen him for over a year and you could imagine the butterflies I had when I caught sight of his dirty blonde hair. Probably by my own suggestion, we decided to spend the day hanging out and he even agreed to walk me to my theater rehearsals later that afternoon.
"Let's get lunch!" one of us decided and we sat at the mall food court. I was always a bold girl so naturally it was me who asked what had happened between us. He began to explain the confusing friendship we had shared and then he said "I don't usually like girls who are black, but you're really pretty for being black."
At the time I thought nothing of it. In fact, my 17-year-old self probably took it as a compliment or shrugged off the fact that he was basically saying black girls weren't desirable. This wasn't the only instance of being called pretty for a black girl, and not all instances were with men.
I was one of the students in high school who was always in the library picking up the newest young adult romance or adventure book. The librarian, an older hispanic woman, and I had become friends and would often talk about our personal lives. One day I told her about my family being from Honduras. "Oh," she said. "That's why you're so pretty! I was thinking you might be mixed with something."
Confused, I told her that my mom and dad were both black. There are black people in Honduras, but her suggestion was that the only way I could be pretty was if I was mixed. And I was mixed, but in the sense that I was mixed with an American black person and a Latin black person. I was still black.
The suggestion that black women aren't pretty strikes me as odd, especially coming from a culture where women go through lengths to make their skin tanner, their butts larger and their lips fuller. I learned as an adult and in my college life that being black often made me desirable as an exotic sexual being. Seeing posts on my campus confessions page that said things like "Any black women down? I think I have jungle fever," or having white men try and grab me at parties, assuming that I was going to bend over for them became common place. I understand that real unease still exists between races and it's often difficult to speak about our differences and experiences. However, it is bizarre to think that black women like being treated as a sexual experience or enjoy being told we're pretty despite our color.
This also speaks to the idea that lighter skin makes you prettier. A few months ago I sat in a room of educated black girls of different complexions and they were having a conversation about who was lightest and who was darkest. It bothered me because I thought we all looked fine. I thought we were all beautiful in our own right and that conversation had no place in our circle. Unfortunately though, this goes hand in hand with growing up hearing that "you're pretty for being black" or "you're pretty even though you have dark skin." I would never go up to a white man and say "You're actually handsome for being white."
Our skin colors do not make us ugly. It doesn't sound kind to say that someone is prettier because their skin is lighter or prettier despite being darker. This isn't a competition. My skin is pretty. My face is pretty. Further, your way of thinking is ugly and if you can't understand that then bye.