Friday, July 20, 2012
Imagery Is Powerful
I’ve seen some distasteful comments on websites and read some very disturbing things that prompted me to write this post.
This week the Internet was all abuzz with pictures of Beyoncé and her adorable 7 month old daughter, Blue Ivy. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. Vicious comments about baby BI’s facial features filled the comment sections of sites that posted the precious picture of Beyoncé and her and Jay Z’s little chubby-cheeked beauty. What was even more disturbing (to me) was that black folks were making pointed comments that made me shake my head. I copied some of them below.
“She has nappy hair.”
“I hope she doesn’t end up with Jay Z’s big lips and nose.”
“Damn, her nose is already wide. I hope she don’t end up looking like her daddy.”
These are just a few of the horrible, mean-spirited things people were saying about Beyoncé’s and Jay Z’s beautiful daughter. Who says stuff like that about a baby? Anyone who can do that is obviously a very sad person inside. And deeper still, this vitriolic banter sheds light on an even more troubling problem. The issue of how we view beauty in the black community.
Black folks are still carrying around a heavy amount of plantation luggage. There are many in the black community who still believe that dark skin, wide noses, full lips, and kinky hair equals ugly. Instead, they strive for lighter skin, slim noses, moderate-size lips and straight hair, because these are all signs of perceived European beauty. That standard of beauty is especially hard for black women. A chocolate brother is all the rage—Idris, Morris, Lance, etc. But a chocolate sister? Not so much.
I remember when the striking Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek hit the scene back in 1995 with her smooth, onyx-colored skin, lusciously full lips, deep-set eyes, and toned, slender body. The reaction in the world of fashion was one of fascination and intrigue. But the talk in the black community was downright hateful. Black folks panned her “African” features as though this beautiful woman was the ugliest thing they’d ever seen. I remember hearing brother’s say things like, “She’s way too black” and some sisters say, “She needs a weave to hide those naps.” Those remarks both angered and saddened me. I was so happy when Oprah had Ms. Wek on her show and said, “If you'd been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was.”
Imagery is powerful.
Growing up, my father used to always tell me how beautiful my chocolate brown skin was. I didn’t appreciate his praise back then, but I certainly do now. My father was letting me know that I was beautiful and worthy, and he was also preparing me for a world that wouldn’t always be as welcoming. It was especially hurtful to me that I would be rebuffed by other black people. Brothers and sisters alike have told me, “You’re pretty to be dark skinned.” Yes, idiots have actually told me this to my face, as if dark skin couldn’t possibly embody even a hint of attractiveness.
Women of other ethnicities spend large amounts of money to get what the majority of black women have naturally—tanned/brown skin, full lips, round hips, high cheekbones—it’s all so beautiful! A flat nose can be just as beautiful as an angular one. Kinky hair can be rocked with a fierceness equal to its long, straight counterpart. Beauty is truly in the eyes of who beholds it, and it’s felt in the way each of us embraces what they have. It’s okay to have hair that’s kinky or straight. It’s okay for skin to be dark or light. It’s okay to have African, Asian, European or any other type of features. But it’s not okay to uphold one standard of beauty as the yardstick by which all other beauty is measured. We (human beings) are so much more than that.
Humanity is simply man’s love for his/her fellow man. Once we embrace our shared humanity (love), we will embrace the beauty in each of us. These aren’t just pie-in-the-sky words I’m speaking. This is real talk! I pray that as the millions of Blue Ivy’s in the world grow up, they will look in the mirror and embrace what they see, and they will live in a society that nurtures it.