I would like to start off by saying that, of course, I know that black is beautiful because there is no shortage of beauty in the African and African-American community. Velvet chocolate skin tones, slender and toned bodies, curvy and full bodies, bone structure so stunning that it defies the laws of aging, I could go on and on. It helps to have public figures that embody the old saying, “good black don’t crack”that so clearly applies to people like Michelle Obama, Gabrielle Union, Sidney Poitier, even Oprah – who, at 62 doesn’t look like any grandma I know. We are a community that has redefined beauty from the days of Grace Jones to Tyra Banks and I, for one, am proud to be apart of it.
.. but sometimes being a black woman doesn’t always feel as beautiful as it should be. Sometimes my black feels like a cloak that makes me invisible when I’m in a room full of other females. Sometimes I resent the comments, “you’re pretty for a black girl” or comparisons to Beyonce or Kerry Washington – the “exceptions” to peoples unconscious bias. Of course, I am keenly aware of my desired features that makes me one of these exceptions, even to be thought of in a general sense as beautiful is more than a lot of girls get no matter what race. And yet, I am considered pretty because of my “white” features; my hair, my eyes, the subtle things that bring out the Native American and Asian traits mixed in my blood that afford me skin that appears milk chocolate brown and yet bronze and shimmering in the sunlight. I was fortunate enough to be showered with compliments about how beautiful I was growing up, and that coupled with the confidence and healthy self-esteem my mother instilled in me have made all the difference in combating these sometimes fleeting moments of insecurity.
I should, of course, preface the rest of this article with the fact that I am somewhat disengaged from the black community. I date mostly white men, have mostly white friends, and live in Denver, Colorado, which could be considered snowy white in more ways then one. I understand and realize the difference in my experience simply because I’m usually standing next to a white girl, and most likely one with that is gorgeous and blonde and the “ideal” aesthetic look for most of society. As ubiquitous as the #whitegirlwasted and #basicwhitegirl tags are, men of all races and ethnicities, including black men, are substantially more drawn to women who look like that over women who look like me. Articles about the black experience of online dating have asserted that black women are the least likely demographic to get “matched” online and studies done by sociologist like Kevin Lewis corroborate this theory. The least liked demographic, that’s what I have to go up against.
So even with a healthy self-esteem, and desirable physical qualities, you can understand why my black doesn’t always feel beautiful. It’s not only white girls, latino and asian women are just as likely as white girls to garner more male attention than I am. For example, I work part-time at a sports bar to make extra money, and I work with mostly white girls and exclusively other females. On the day to day most the girls I work with get asked for their numbers, and are constantly flirted with by our younger male crowd. In the time that I’ve worked there I have gotten one number and zero from any prospect I would actually date. While it doesn’t usually bother me, from time to time it’s hard to find myself attractive when I’m consistently being over looked by girls who are clearly in another physical spectrum then I am.
People (mostly men) will comment, “well you can’t fault someone for not being physical attracted to you,” and, of course, they’d be right. Regardless of my race, people are allowed to have their preferences. For me however, it’s not about that at all. For me it’s about the lengths I have to go through in order to be considered good looking to the select men that might be attracted to black women. The black women that most men find attractive have long (extensions) hair, skinny waists, and shaped and toned asses. They have luminous skin, mainstream clothing, and have to be void of any “ghetto” accent (whatever that is). To be considered beautiful by most of society I have to change almost everything about me, or at least fix what I have, into the mold of what “black beauty” is.
So no, my black doesn’t always feel beautiful. It feels like a struggle, it feels like a burden, it feels like a chore. There is constant tug-of-war between accepting who I am as beautiful and feeling the need to do more in order to even be in the game. At the end of the day, more times than not I can look into the mirror and feel attractive, or at least passable – just like any other twenty something female, but that is a luxury and a pleasure that most black girls don’t have. It’s not enough to have a few gorgeous celebrities represent our culture, or even campaigns like #blackisbeautiful because African and African-American women can only deem themselves beautiful if they feel it inside, and I for one understand if inside, they don’t.