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'I was afraid to meet you this late': the shocking reality of dating other black women
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I grew up in the south where, for the most part, all variations of skin tones were considered acceptable, beautiful. Colorism was still there, faintly: I remember getting scolded for playing in the sun too long. But as I got older it became exhausting to navigate relationships in my dark black body.
It has become my job to remind the people in my life that the burden of their anti-black conditioning falls on me. If anti-blackness denies a black person their humanity, then the primary function of colorism is to normalize a world in which people are offered less dignity, empathy and, yes, desirability, the deeper their complexion is. Black people have for decades self-corralled to follow the rules of colorism: thinner noses and lips, looser curls, lighter eyes, general proximity to whiteness is seen as more valuable and desirable.
I have never understood the role colorism plays in the cheap politics of desirability more than here, on the west coast.
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The slights of my childhood are more vicious now coming out of the mouths of women on Tinder. You look angry in your profile picture! My Tinder profile picture is me smiling in a bikini in the Pacific Ocean. My belly is well moisturized, my crooked teeth backlit by the sun.
I was a little afraid to meet you this late. I met her in my favorite neighborhood bar that evening at 7pm. When I asked her what about me seemed so scary, she appeared baffled. Yes, I am a child of blackness. Yes, the black body has done more for society than it has gotten in return. Yes, society seems to want to embrace a lot of things associated with blackness without actually being black. How did we get here?
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If everyone is so woke, why are things so terrible? Anyway, what am I supposed to do? How do I love as a brown body in the world in a way that makes everybody happy? Am I the problem or is everyone else? Do white women find me attractive or do they see me as some exotic idea they should find attractive? Do I find white women attractive or do I see them as some exotic idea I should find attractive? Not because of what or whom we love, but as a way out, a way of being seen and of being saved.
That my power is only as valuable as the person by my side. A whole system is coded within me. Before I was born, my mother told my father she was pregnant at 3 a. She and my pops made a commitment to give us children everything they never had, to strive and achieve and provide for us, and in response to their aspiration, some in their world thought they were leaving their roots behind and trying to become something else. What does that mean — trying to be white?
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