I just finished viewing a documentary about dark-skinned Black females, women with melanin magic, women with the gift of living close to the original chocolate flavor chosen for us all until swirled with vanilla. The documentary, Dark Girls 2, started as a lamentation of what it feels like to have a dark complexion
within the Black culture. I was amazed at the entrenched pain the girls suffered growing up that continued to wreak havoc on their self-esteem as women. I sat watching with a smirk on my face. My smirk was all about you-know-who – me, Midnight.
Yes, that was one of my nicknames as a teenager. I was given that name when I entered St. Thomas Apostle High School; before then, at Hyde Park, I was Teddy Bear, Black Beauty, but I really liked Midnight. I loved being Black, having dark skin. What?!
You can’t tell me that spirituality is not important. Growing up as a Catholic girl indoctrinated by the confidence of aspiring sainthood, (I’m not kidding), I had a big personality and exuded confidence. It did not occur to me that I could be considered less-than because of my dark skin. Unlike the girls I viewed in the documentary, I always thought something was wrong with people who could not see my beauty. When my dance teacher said to the class, “OK, light girls to the front, and dark girls to the back,” I was confident that the teacher, Mr. Morrison, had lost his mind. I knew my worth and that I could really dance. (Anyway, the main teacher, Sammy Dyer, loved me). I remember my Aunt Ruth, who taught me her special moves, could not dance professionally because she was too dark. Now that story saddened me. I guess looks have always been important to our culture. So let’s talk about looks
In the land of colorism, there are different shades of Black, from light, almost white, to jet black. I am next to jet black, definitely dark. As a child, I looked like Buckwheat. Not in a bad way – in a true way. My mom used to grease my face for the Chicago cold, and I wore ace caps like my brother. That was my look until I began to blossom as a pre-teen. As a teen, I was centered with girls, most of who were a lighter hue, but I had my share of attention and was quite social; so skin color was not an issue. I remember a beautiful girl that was brown-skinned (coffee-with cream brown) asking, “Does it look like I’m getting lighter?” And I heard girls I danced with talk about perspective boyfriends. “He can’t be darker than coffee with cream.” I tell you I was mortified, not for me, but by them and for them! Somehow I knew how shallow it was to base preferences and a person’s worth by their skin color. My boyfriends, husband, and now, Mr. K., were chosen from the inside, out.
I was always teased for loving my skin. “You think you something ’cause you black!” And they were right. Even before I knew the moniker, Black to be beautiful or powerful, I smiled when they called me Midnight. I knew I had something unique, the splendor/magic described, and taught in the second half of the documentary. Now, y’all, get ready…I had to teach my deceased husband and kids about colorism too. They got it from the other end. Bob and Miles were “damned-near white,” and Camille was a “yellow girl.”
When I met Bob, he would be ready to fight if someone mentioned his color. As a kid, he was taunted and called “White boy.” Both his parents were very light-skinned, and his grandfather was mulatto. I walked into a room to meet his father’s uncles, and they were white! I mean really light. He told me that some passed for white. Bob couldn’t wait to tell me how Black he knew he was. I had to assure him that Black comes in many hues and that ignorant people didn’t deserve his ire. Growing up on St. Maarten, Camille felt bad because she wasn’t dark, like her mama. To the rescue again, I assured her of her beauty. Miles also grew up on the island and color meant nothing to him at age 5. But when we moved back to the States to Virginia Beach and someone screamed “Nigger!” we had to teach him about race, but never discussed colorism with him. He still tries to wear twists, but can’t make them stick. What?!
Colorism is not unique to Black culture. Unfortunately, most cultures aspire to be lighter, if not white, from Asians and Latinx to Africans. White folks try to get dark or be Black, As an adult, I thanked my parents for somehow bolstering me against the trials of colorism. Documentaries such as Dark Girls 2, will be credited for making colorism transparent and for teaching how to empower girls of all shades. In the ’60s when we heard “Black is beautiful,” it meant all shades of black; it still does.
We are a myriad of magnificence, brilliantly Black.
“It’s all/love/God” – Victorine
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11 Replies to “Midnight”
I disliked it then and dislike it now do not call me yellow or moon faced! I’m not hankering for a nickname!
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Ooh I bet they got you good. ❤️
I never felt bad growing up because of the color of my skin. My dad was light and my mom was dark. My sister is light and I am dark.
No problem…as far as I knew, we were all black.
I’m with you. BLACK , is beautiful.
My family is a rainbow of color, so I never heard anything about color. My dad near white, my mom brown and me in between. I was a smart, confident child always so supported by my Mother. I was a self starter, and popular in school.
I felt so sad to hear the girls/women’s experiences!
First, what a beautiful family!! Second, it’s powerful to be reminded of how it “how it used to be”? To be reminded of the things we’ve forgotten. It’s good for me to be reminded of the beautiful sistas that walked around like the queens they were, even “back then”. Thanks Victorine
Thank you for your wonderful words. Unfortunately, colorism still exists, but the more we expose it, the more it will hopefully diminish.
My family members come in all hues. My mom never made a fuss about such nonsense! I don’t think your hue makes you beautiful or ugly looking!
Good skin comes in all colors. unfortunately I suffered as a teenager with pimples! Glad that passed! I went to school with white black and Latinos in Brooklyn New York, Not a problem for me where I was. I always felt confident and it was not based on hue. It was based on how I felt about my accomplishments and my own morals and abilities,not someone else’s ideas of what I should or should not be or feel. I am good! I like me just fine. What I did not like, I could change if I chose to do so. My life, my choice, my consequences. No living up to what anyone else thinks I should be or do. I don’t compete with anyone. If I admire something in someone and I think I’d like to try that, I do. If i can’t well I tried. My mom taught me a lesson when I was very young. She said “no matter how fine you think you are, there will always be someone finer! You just be what you can be”That is all. As i live I see I grew up without envy or jealousy. These things will kill your spirit! Always competing! Admire and be happy for them!
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You are blessed to have received a strong sense of self-worth from your family. What a foundation for happiness!
What a beautiful beautiful story to share. All of us are Black no matter what color we are. It is sad to focus on colors and/or shades of our blackness in this world. We are ALL Black.
Indeed, we all come from Mother Africa and are blessed to be an array of hues. Thank you for your kind comments.