Note: The names in my reflection are NOT the real names of the individuals involved.
As I mentioned in class on Wednesday, the sentiments of the women in the NYT Op-doc, “A Conversation With Black Women on Race” really resonated with me. Their words hit me especially hard though after a dinner conversation with some of my friends last night. As I sat around the table with my friends, one male friend (I will call him Martin) pointed out that we represented the color spectrum. We were all students of color, but we did represent many different shades. After my friend’s comment, two of my female friends (I will call them Victoria and Angie) started a discussion about whether they were or were not the same skin tone. Placing the underside of their arms side-by-side, my two friends decided that they were. When Victoria asked Martin if he thought that they were the same skin tone, Martin said no and that Victoria was darker. As a student of color himself, Martin did not have any intention to hurt Victoria, but it quickly became apparent that he did. As he and another friend left to attend to a commitment, Victoria said in frustration that she hated that was always the darkest person the dinner table. Angie then told Victoria that I was the only one at the table who wasn’t dark, even though my Latina friend that was also at the table with us is much lighter than me.
Victoria and Angie were not simply talking about “lightness” in general, but “lightness” in the black community. Victoria then said that my lightness was a blessing and Angie agreed. Upon hearing their words, sadness welled up in my heart. Despite the many times that I have told Victoria how beautiful she is, I know that she will not believe me unless the world also tells her that black women of darker shades are beautiful… until there are less images of Halle Berry and light-skinned women as the epitome of black beauty and more images of Alek Wek and other black women of darker shades. Until then, I will continue to be the source of external validation for Victoria and other friends and hope that, eventually, they will see how beautiful they are for themselves.