I’ve grown tired of being sick and tired. For every person that changes the word ‘Black’ to ‘all,’ I roll my eyes and continue to play with my thick, natural hair in the mirror. Ive grown to love who’s staring back at me in the mirror and in all honesty, it took years to get here.
My mother gave me The Bluest Eye to read at a young age because I’m certain she believed Pecola Breedlove came in the form of her eldest daughter. When I opted for gray contacts that looked blue against the irises of my eyes, I know she died a little bit inside. I never said it openly, but playing with white Barbies did something to me. Flipping through special editions of Vogue and Harper’s BAZAAR, and soaking in images of white beauty into my psyche, played a part in me wanting to be something that I never would be.
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I prayed to God in church for lighter skin because I thought the best lipsticks were more fitting to the caramel complexion, and I did go to the altar once to ask God for straighter hair because there was but so much a hot comb could do for my crown. I had Black Cabbage Patch babies, but they were nothing in comparison to the Mattel dolls I owned that had the luxury of coming in collectible boxes, worth a fortune in the future. I drew on the faces of the Cabbage Patch Kids, but those holiday Barbies? I knew not to touch them, much less, remove them from their homes. They were special. They were white. Those toys that looked like me; what were they worth, really?
Fast forward to my collegiate life – a colored girl at a PWI – and it was then that I finally realized the importance of my skin color. I was the only Black girl in an English class; the only person in a public speaking course who “talked a little different,”; the sole member in a club that could finally say they were a ‘diversity group.’ I went from “speaking like a white girl” in high school, to fitting in with the small percentage of people of color at a university. I didn’t dare to be different, I just was, and I loved it.
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In a world where people are undergoing lip augmentations or drawing on their mouths to achieve the thickness that I now love, I wonder why was it that I wanted to be someone else. Black culture is now, for most, the ‘it’ culture; the wave; the trend; the thing to emulate and embrace. From gelled down baby hairs (with the toothbrush), to the curves in my hips and the color of my skin that doesn’t require a tanning salon, I cackle at the people who bash necessary movements like Black Girls Rock and yet, pick and choose what part of me and my heritage they want to pass as their own.
I rock. I rocked when I didn’t know I did. I rock because of that ‘fro I still wear around my house from my early years – a staple piece for Black girls in hoods, now a hairstyle to rock for models on the runway. Sure, all lives matter, and as a person who identifies as a feminist, all girls rock, but for twenty-something years, I saw that I’ve been placed on the back burner because of my skin. Black girls get put in the back of the magazines far too often, and so when one of mine makes the front cover of some of your favorites, I buy it for just that reason alone. We’re finally in the front – where we belong.
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I rock because somehow, this world says there is no place for women that look like me, and yet, in the words of Cicely Tyson, “no one is going to bother to put you down, if you were not a threat to them.” My skin color is a threat. My happiness and my need to applaud my fellow sisters is a sin. My womanhood and my ways are a crime. And still I rise.
We rise. We rock.
The #whitegirlsrock hashtag isn’t anything new – it trends every time #BlackGirlsRock airs – but so does my culture. It trends in magazines, in the news, in your neighborhood, in your face. Even when you don’t want to see it.