Yes, I’ve Felt Invisible Before Around My Lighter Friends, No It Didn’t Kill My Confidence
Imagine a man, particularly a Black man, coming up to you and your friend trying to holla at her. Imagine you being the bomb ass best friend you are and letting her do her thing because she seems interested in him. Imagine him spitting his game, and you minding your business. Then, imagine him looking at you, after talking to your BFF, and saying to you, with pity and a condescending tone, that you, too, are a beautiful dark-skinned woman, as though you were sitting on the sidelines crying because he wasn’t trying to talk to you.
I don’t have to imagine this scenario. This is what happened to me when a Black (perhaps mixed race) man approached my best friend, who is a gorgeous African-American and Filipino woman, in New Orleans and stated those exact words, with a horridly condescending tone.
It wasn’t the lack of acknowledgment of my presence that bothered me; I’m more than good on men, dating, and supporting my friends when a new bae is attempting to put in work. I was irritated by the fact that a) he assumed I was butt-hurt because he was trying to talk to my best friend and not me, and b) he tried to assuage my feelings by stating that I, too, was beautiful in a rather patronizing way. It was as though he felt bad for me. But why? Why did he assume that because my best friend looks the way she does, and I look the way I do, that I must be insecure.
The truth is, at times, I have felt invisible while out with friends that may have been lighter, thinner, had longer hair, were mixed, and so on. I’ll admit that because I’m human. But the other part of that truth is that feeling that way hasn’t really ever affected my confidence. At least not in the long run.
I didn’t grow up with the notion that there was something wrong with my complexion. I grew up with the understanding that I was beautiful, mostly because daddy, mommy, and God said so. But I also encountered the “real” world rather soon when in the fourth grade school I was teased by an idiot named Dexter. He joked about how dark I was in front of the entire class and I remember feeling a mixture of confusion and awareness that there could, could be something wrong with the way I looked. It was the first time I actually thought that there was something wrong with me, which is why I firmly believe Kids are taught their own insecurities.
But when they say your upbringing really affects your view of yourself, it’s true. My parents instilled confidence within me from an early age. I credit this as the reason that being teased by Dexter, and being condescendingly complemented by that guy in New Orleans were only moments when I possibly felt less than and overlooked my own inner and outer beauty. Those instances didn’t eradicate my positive view of myself overall, and they never will.
Culturally speaking, I believe that our generation is trying to get rid of the colorism bullsh-t we’ve all been subjected to, because, you know…slavery. We’ve seen millennial-driven brands authentically show more inclusivity, think Glossier and Fenty Beauty. We see Black girls, all over the world, embracing and loving up on each other on Instagram, one of the positives of social media. We petitioned for Lupita to get her makeup deal, not only because she’s drop-dead gorgeous, but because representation matters. Overall, we’re making some true changes within our community as young Black men and women, and I’m super proud of that.
But, there’s still generational ignorance that many of us have inherited, as well as environmentally encouraged ignorance. (I typically experience more colorism from my own in the southern states than on the east coast, odd or nah?)
The annoyance, for me, is the assumption of insecurity many people think brown and darker Black girls are carrying. Many of us, from my personal experience, aren’t. We want to see more representation; we don’t want pity. We’re aren’t crying for the media or beauty industries to make us feel beautiful, we’re demanding that they stop acting like we don’t exist because they don’t see our beauty.
The shock that some men and women have on their faces when they see how confident I am, whether because of my curvy figure or complexion, is what bothers me most. It’s what truly upset me about that encounter with that guy who didn’t get my friend’s number in New Orleans (that was petty, right?).
Many brown and dark-skinned women go unnoticed within society, this we know. But, honestly, it’s cool. Society doesn’t determine how much I love myself and it shouldn’t determine how much you or anyone else reading this loves themselves either. But what’s not cool is the assumption that darker women need pity, aren’t confident, or don’t feel beautiful. It’s not true for everyone and the condescending compliments many offer up to women who look like me, whether via Instagram comments (“you’re such a pretty dark-skinned woman”), or in person (“don’t worry love, you’re gorgeous, too), are completely unnecessary. And, to be honest, outdated. We’re good luv, don’t you worry.