My Experience with Colorism as a Young Black Girl

As a young girl, colorism didn’t have a name to me. But even at 10 years old I started to realize how being darker skinned would affect me for the rest of my life. From pre-k to second grade, I was surrounded by people who looked exactly like me. At my all black elementary school in East Point, GA, I never felt less than or judged because of my skin color. In a sea full of brown, I was at home.

In the third grade, I switched schools to a primarily white private Christian school. There were only a handful of black students in my grade. Throughout my course there, I noticed that I was at odds simply because of the shade of my skin. One of my best friends at the time, who was light skin, had a boyfriend and seemed to be adored by every person she encountered. After being rejected by a white boy, I felt my self-confidence begin to diminish. Granted, I was only ten years old and nowhere near my glo-up but for a fifth-grader it felt like the end of the world.

When I got to middle school, the trend continued. At a mixed school, there were plenty of black students, but it always seemed that people were attracted to the white or Hispanic girls, or the light skinned black girls. I envied my lighter friends, but more than that I began to resent myself. I was a soccer player, and thus spent a lot of time in the sun. I got to the point where I would hate going to practice for the fear of getting darker and would run to the shade at every possible moment. Eventually, I decided that I would fix the problem myself. I searched for weeks for skincare routines, homemade and store-bought, that would allow me to lighten my skin. I tried to steer away from bleaching mostly because of my fear of turning out like Michael Jackson. My favorite was a honey and lemon juice mixture that I would apply to my skin, promising myself that when it worked I too would be pretty.

At some point, I gave up and realized that there was no amount of lemon juice that could change who I was. I began to accept that I would not let the color of my skin or what people thought of it affect how I lived my life. Beauty is by perspective but being darker-skinned does not correlate to ugliness or subpar.

The emergence of “Melanin Poppin” and dark skin Twitter increased my self-confidence, movements that encourage girls like me to embrace our chocolate skin and see being darker in a positive light. There are still times when I wonder what my life would be like if I was a different color, but life is too short to ponder on what could have been. It was too long of a journey, but I love myself and my skin and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. And with that, I encourage any other girl that looks at someone else and thinks “I wish I was that skin color” or “I’m not as pretty because”, to remind themselves that another woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own. Love yourself and love the skin you’re in.