The Color Complex
Driving from my sister's house, The Bee was telling me about her time hanging with her girlfriends. "Mommy! M– got into it with a kid who called her fat. She called him fat back and then the boy turned to me and said that I was Black."
At this point I gripped the steering wheel tightly but kept what I hoped was a blank look on my face as she continued her story but inside I seethed. Really, in this day and age, there are still people, young people at that, using race as an insult? I muttered about ignorant folk, but aloud I asked what she said back to him and she replied that she looked the boy in his eye and said to him, you know you're Black too. The boy replied, 'Nah uhn' and then he had nothing else to say. When I asked her how she felt about what he said, she shrugged and said that his words didn't matter and then asked if she could use the computer when we got home.
My daughter is a beautiful chocolate color, her skin is smooth, flawless and perfect. She reminds me of Beverly Peele — regal, exquisite. But for some crumb snatcher to dare insult her and attempt to make her skin color a negative really pisses me off. Color is such an issue. My Twitter timeline is all atwitter about the girls from videos (please God, don't let The Bee think she needs to be one of those), the women on television, the way we are represented on television and heck, even I mentioned something about skin color. It's there, it’s a thing and I was so confident and a tad naive that it wasn't going to be our thing.
When The Bee was a baby I remember people studying her ears to see “what color she would be” and advising me to keep her out of the sun. As she got older, people would see the two of us together and would remark, “She must look like her dad.” (She did and at times does, but what the ham fat?). Even now when we run into people who have heard me speak about The Bee they look at her, then me, and remark about how she doesn't look like me. I've even had one person study us and say, "Oh, her dad must be dark." ('kay?) Now I often worry about how she will be perceived. Like many families, my family represents many shades of “black.” Growing up I can remember it being an issue for some, but I always felt that my skin color was nothing more than a palette for getting dressed.
When I speak to other parents about this issue it seems to be something that comes up often. There are stories about their kids wishing they were blonde (Barbie's flowing mane is the envy of many), had longer hair, were lighter…darker? A friend worried about how to break the news to her daughter that her hair would never look like Tiana from Disney's Princess and the Frog.
It is so sad that all of The Bee's awesome qualities can be dismissed with a glance at her skin. It seems even worse that it can be at the doing of someone that looks like her. The Bee seems happy, doesn't express to me a desire to look differently and I am hopeful she is getting good esteem, but I still want to find that little crumb cruncher and slap some sense into him. Or hug him.
I will continue to make sure my kid is still a good person inside and out, but for now we are getting our sunscreen (cause Black folks get cancer too) and continuing to head to the outdoors.
Rachée Fagg is a Delaware County, PA mom. Check out her blog, Say It Rah-shay.