After avoiding it for nearly two years, I finally watched the documentary Dark Girls. I’d been putting it off because I didn’t want to get upset. I didn’t want to watch something that would only remind me of the strong impact colorism has had in my world. Even now when I type my own name into a Google search, the option “Nikia Phoenix race” appears. Wow! That’s something people actually look up. I know who I am. I know where I come from. Sure, my complexion may have you confused. Those freckles probably throw you for a loop. But my super kinky hair is an obvious indicator of my African roots. The subject of Black hair is another conversation that we’ll save for later. Let’s get back to skin.
I’ve never wanted to be lighter than I am. If anything, I wanted to be darker. I’d look around at family of mine with cocoa skin that shines and glistens and want what they have. I joke around and say that one day all of my freckles will come together and I’ll be brown. Ha! If only. I’m not caramel by any means. It’s more like what butter, brown sugar, and cream look like before adding heat and mixing up to make caramel. My complexion really resembles chocolate chip cookie dough, and I’m cool with that now. In the summer I enjoy getting golden and baking in the sun. But I slather on the sunscreen because I burn as easily as some Caucasians do.
For my entire life I’ve heard people on either side of the color lines telling me that I’m too this and not enough that to really be African American. I wonder how both of my parents would feel if someone walked up to them and said “You’re not black.” To this day, some people will only marry and have children with someone of a certain complexion to make sure they have children who are either dark skinned or fair skinned. God and the universe have a really funny way of working things out. My sister and I are products of the same two people, yet our complexions are different but we still look familiar to each other. When you are of African heritage, there’s no guarantee what color your skin will be. You can turn out to look like the milkman’s baby, the black sheep, or somewhere in between.
I’m not saying that I’d like for this society to be colorblind. I love color. I love being a woman of color. It is who I am, and I can’t change that nor would I want to. I’d just like for others to see what I see: the beauty in the rainbow of human beings. We come in so many different tones, but not one is prettier than the other. So no matter if I’m pale in the winter and golden in the summer, I am and we are Beautiful in Every Shade. Embrace that and love the skin you’re in.