Dear Lord, Let My Daughter Be Dark-Skinned
They call me Smokey. That nickname is probably the nicest thing my father has ever done for me. The best reminder of how he loves me.
Let my mother tell the story of my birth and you would think the heavens opened that day to reward the hard work of my ancestors before me with the perfect child. Well, maybe not the perfect child, but definitely the perfect color. See when I was born, the third daughter of my parents, there was something very distinctive about me. I had dark skin. Unlike most children who are born, I did not darken over time, I came out dipped in black from the moment I entered this Earth. My Mom tells me of the sheer joy shared by my father’s family. That finally they had a child that shared their same beautiful hue. It was a legit celebration. Despite the commonality of embarrassment people who are assigned color-based nicknames during youth typically encounter, there was no negativity associated with Smokey. I was dark like smoke and I was special because of it.
When I encountered people throughout life that would smirk or giggle at my nickname, initially, I didn’t understand why. While there is no doubt colorism is very real, until my adolescence, I didn’t realize that it was against dark skinned women. I guess I have a few misguided young men who thought that they could use my darkness as a weakness to thank for that annoying revelation. What they didn’t understand is that they couldn’t convince me of an inferiority that didn’t exist. They didn’t understand they were far too late to change the indoctrination of my youth. My family is filled with beautiful dark women on both sides. They carry themselves with so much confidence, it never occurred to me that my skin wasn’t what everyone wanted. We were encouraged to get darker in the sun, our summer tans were a badge of accomplishment, like a testament to how epic our outdoor adventures must have been. As far as physical characteristics went, my skin color was my favorite feature.
My mother does not have dark skin. She is more of a light brown. I don’t know why, but she never talked to me about colorism. Racism, yes, but colorism, not so much. While colorism has always been an issue throughout history in most cultures, maybe in the 80s, the conversation on how to address it or change it hadn’t yet become a priority? Maybe she just didn’t worry about it being a long term issue in the establishment of my self-confidence? In the end, she never discussed how my skin is truly viewed in the world around me. She did, however, always tell me the story of how my family received me. It skewed my view, it gave me an alternate sense of reality where colorism doesn’t change lives, doesn’t create boundaries and doesn’t destroy beautiful dark women just like me. My mother raised me to believe I had the most sought-after appearance. Hard stop, no additional explanation. It was just fact that everyone wanted to be or have a dark-skinned girl. Even now, knowing all I know about the global impact of colorism, I still think that is what all dark girls deserve. They deserve to be lifted without the “but” waiting for them at the end of the sentence. They deserve to be built on a foundation where their skin, from the moment they arrive, is applauded. As adults, providers, guardians and parents, sometimes we overshare. In our attempt to prepare our little ones for the world, we neglect to build them up in their own bodies first. My Momma had me so full of myself, by the time someone attempted to use my skin against me they were fighting a losing battle. I never had to learn how to appreciate my darkness, I had to learn to appreciate the struggles of women all over the world who did have that journey. I had to detach myself from my personal experience to listen to the conversation long enough and begin to understand. I would much rather my daughter have to listen to the pain of colorism and learn to sympathize than be the voice bringing other women to her reality.
Unfortunately, the truth is, not everyone has the ability to raise a dark girl. They may not know how to praise her up, to build her above where the world thinks she belongs or not put limitations on her beauty. Not everyone will be able to see beyond themselves, their prejudices or the screaming hypocrisy of the society to whisper in her ear, you skin is your blessing. That requires a strength and sense of self that cannot be altered by cultural expectations or the latest beauty trend. It requires believing, whole heartedly, that dark girls are beautiful. Why do I want a dark daughter? Because I see the ebony, the onyx, the oil stained, and the ultra-pigmented as a justification for a standing ovation. Because I know her loving herself cannot be an afterthought. Because by the time the world tried to tell her that her abundance of melanin equaled a deficiency in any way, her little body would be so full of my words that her confidence would repel their insecurities like water off her miraculously tinted skin. Because a dark girl needs a Momma like me, someone who will give her an origin story worthy of a superhero.
So Lord, if you have one to give. If you are going to be blessing anyone with one soon. Please send her to me. I deserve a dark-skinned daughter. I promise from the moment she takes her first breath she will know she was prayed for and eagerly anticipated. That her skin is a representation of all my hopes. I will give her what my mother gave me, the truth, a history that proceeded her first breath, that she is my dream come true.