I think that in a world where your hair is forced into being straight with chemicals as opposed to coiled and natural from as early as the age of three. It says something to you from a very young age, it says that you are to be corrected, that you are born wrong and your hair must be fixed into submission, and “fixing” it is making it look straight and flowing not stiff and coiled.
I remember how in primary school, we always used to refer to the peach-coloured crayon/pencil as “skin colour”, I remember how all my people were always drawn in “skin colour”, and not brown because I was a five year old regurgitating the norms that surrounded me and failed to recognise my own brown skin as my norm. I’m half chuckling right now remembering this picture I once won some art competition for in nursery school. It was a picture of me riding a horse on the beach in the sunset, and my mom has somehow kept it all these years. In the picture my skin is light brown and I have long blonde hair… it was almost like five year old me had never looked in a mirror. I knew I didn’t look like that, but I thought that was what I was meant to look like because that was the standard that surrounded me.
From a little black girl who played with white dolls and read books about little kids with blonde hair and blue eyes, it makes me question how deep one has to dig to find the identity of black and then of woman and merge the two when none is found in the literature (magazines and school books) we use to educate little black girls.
The other day (basically how this train of thought came to me), I was sitting and doing my make up, as I sat there contouring my nose- it hit me… the essence of contouring your nose is to make it look more pointy and highlight the bridge, but of course my nose is flat and wide. Here I was, a full grown black woman and still correcting myself into European beauty norms… These are hard things to unlearn. We are raising little black girls constantly telling them that they are wrong through correcting their speech, their grammar, their bodies, hair and overall looks into whiteness. And there is nothing wrong with whiteness but constantly trying to ‘whitefy’ the black girl by implication, says how wrong she is for being born black and female.
While typing this I randomly decided to do a little experiment, which you are more than welcome to try too, I insist. I typed a google image search with the words “beautiful women”, and the entire first three page were different shades of white women and two of black women with long straight hair. Eight search pages later, not a single black woman with natural hair.I was gutted. I tried again, this time searching just “women” and still, hundreds of white faces and one or two black faces. Perhaps it is a silly experiment, but it spoke volumes for what the norm is for how the world conditions little black girls to see themselves through white lenses.
This took me back to a heart breaking quote I once saw, “black woman is the nigger of the world”.
Our self love is hard, it has to be forcefully deliberate and it almost amounts to defiance just to acknowledge your flat nose, melanin skin, full lips, midnight eyes, and hair that coils and defies gravity.Loving yourself as a black woman is a challenge and protest in a institutionally sexist and racist world.
*images not my own