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Growing Up As A Black Woman In A Predominantly White Community

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Iowa chapter.

Growing up I always felt trapped in my skin. I would sit in a room, look around, and realize I was the only black person there. I tried to never let it bother me, but I would always catch myself looking around a room realizing there isn’t anyone else that looks like me. I guess I would describe it as an exposed chip on my shoulder that everyone could see I was different.

I am a 20-year-old black woman who has grown up in a predominantly white community. My interactions have always been filled with microaggressions, colorism, and feelings of isolation. I constantly feel like I must prove my worth whether it’s in the classroom, at work, or in a social setting. That exposed chip on my shoulder led me to try to be someone I wasn’t.

I learned through microaggressions that I will always accomplish a goal and being a black girl accomplishing it would be a big deal. I will always meet someone new and be told they are surprised I am well-spoken. I will always have to explain why my hair is different or if it’s real. I will always be asked if I can swim or not. I will always be expected to be the spokesperson for my entire race. I will always be told that I am too white for being a black girl. I will always be in a constant battle with these statements.

Statements like these came from my peers, coworkers, and even teachers. It made me feel like my skin color was a burden, that I was never going to have a conversation without a discriminating statement making an appearance. 

As I got older, I learned how much colorism made me look at myself in a negative way. I remember vividly in 3rd grade there was a Cinderella play and I was so excited because I have always wanted to be Cinderella as a little girl. One day I told my classmates around me I wanted to at least audition and I was told that I was too dark to play such a pretty character and someone lighter should probably play that role. That moment will live with me forever because that’s when I became accustomed to the view of lighter means prettier.

I mean all my life I have watched movies and shows with the main character being a white woman exemplifying the beauty standards and rarely a black woman being portrayed with that same notion. I have been told by boys that they like black girls, but they can’t be “too dark”. It was always that I was too dark, but all the white girls would tan and be happy their skin was almost as dark as mine. It was like appearing dark was only beautiful on them and not naturally beautiful on me. With time I learned that my skin is beautiful, but colorism still exists and will always exist.

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The feeling of being trapped in my skin and living in constant burden would push me into isolation. Although I am black, I felt out of place with my race. I mean I mentioned it earlier I always get told that I’m too white to be black. Growing up constantly being told I’m not black enough left me in a gray area. I would get why people saying it thought it was a harmless joke, but it drove me to dislike everything about my appearance. I wasn’t black enough, but I was too dark to be looked at in the same way as a white woman who tries to be my skin color, and that right there never made any sense to me. Yet again I learned to become accustomed to it and I still find myself trying to prove that I am black enough no matter what I do, how I speak, or how I carry myself. 

Either way, I still battle these burdens every day. As much as I have learned growing up that my skin color is beautiful, my environment continues to throw many obstacles my way, to make me believe anything but that notion. I am happy to finally be comfortable in my skin, there is no such thing as being too dark or not being black enough only that black is beautiful. 

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Destinee is a third-year student at The University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications, and is getting a certificate in Event Management. Besides writing, she is a Sports Reporter at The Daily Iowan TV.
U Iowa chapter of the nation's #1 online magazine for college women.