As I sit here trying to begin my story, I am taken aback by the fact that I just don’t know where to start! I have witnessed so many instances of intra-racial unrest that I am having a hard time determining which allegory to begin with. Do I start with an incident from my childhood in which I was barred from playing outside in the summer sun because I was, “dark enough already?” Or do I initiate this piece by describing the utter disgust I felt as I watched a family friend pinch the nose of her newborn granddaughter in an attempt to prevent her nose from becoming ”wide and Africanized?” Or should I just jump right in and talk about my mother’s misuse of the baby bonnet as a means to preserve my newborn’s “pretty yellow skin?”
Wherever I choose to begin my story, I realize that it is a narrative that must be told. For years, this concept of intra-racial discontent has been tearing away at the fabric of the African-American community; particularly the girls. Ever since there has been something called a “Negro Woman” in America, society has gone out of its way to catalog us based on skin color. From the “house negro” and “field negro” classifications of the antebellum south to the current depictions of African-American women in popular culture, the “black” woman has consistently and constantly been pigeon-holed based on skin color, hair texture, body size and attitude.
Ok, I’m supposed to talk about my personal experiences with intra-racial discord; those experiences that necessitate these courageous conversations. But, as I look around, I cannot help but see how far beyond me this problem is. The simple fact is, this issue is not new. However, how we deal with it is. Admittedly, I have had negative experiences due to my dark brown skin color and kinky hair texture. Nevertheless, I assert that because of the positive people in my village and my support network, I was able to power through the negativity and persevere. Because of this network of women that loved me and treated me as if I was worthy of…anything, I was able to navigate this labyrinth called life. As I look around, I weep for our girls because the village is burning and society has thrown away all of the water buckets. When I was a child, yes, it was clear from the images on television that only light skin and straight hair were considered beautiful to popular culture. However, I was fortunate enough to have dark-skinned women with kinky hair in my life that carried themselves in such a way that no one would dare say they weren’t. These were my teachers, my church family and sometimes the women within my biological family. These women were the mélange of my village.
The aforementioned issue has manifested itself in a civil war among black girls; a place where name-calling, ridicule, deceit and physical aggression often play themselves out in our schools. Often the behavioral response is a mimicking of the negative portrayals of black women that I see way more than I would like in popular culture. These images often leave me with a sense of emptiness and fear for future generations of girls that look like me and leave me to wonder how do we fix it?
While I don’t claim to have the magic cure-all to resolving the malaise of African American girls, I do believe that I have found a healthy place to start. The solution starts with everyone that has taken the time to read this. The elucidation lies with all of those that are willing to take up the charge of being a part of a young girl’s village. Making an attempt to understand this often overlooked problem and begin courageous conversations is definitely a good foundation for change.