Color and Character

We talked about our goals, our hopes and our dreams. We talked about our futures: about the careers we wanted and the people we hoped we would marry. And then you laughed and said, “My mom would never approve of you.”

I reeled back, hurt, and asked you why.

“Because she thinks my future wife should be paler than a ghost.” And you laughed again.

I looked at you, unsure if your words were coming from a place of complete ignorance or willful malice. My eyes burned with the tears I was trying to hold back. Angry words, heartbroken words, words of frustration and absolute sorrow all soared to the tip of my tongue. But I bit it, and I changed the subject.

Never in my life before this moment had I been told I wasn’t good enough because of the color of my skin. I heard those stories from my dad, I read those stories in history books, and I thought, “That will never happen to me. Things are different, people are different.”

But I was wrong. You proved me wrong. And so did countless others after you, spewing the same thoughtless sentiment in slightly different variations, confirming over and over and over again that it mattered not who I was a person, but what I looked like. That my character had already been predetermined, judged, and rejected because of my color: 

“You should’ve gone to Prairie View, you’ll never find a husband here.”
“I have never personally been attracted to black girls.”
“My dad told me he would cut me off if I ever married someone outside of my race.”
“I’ve heard black girls are the easiest.”

The words that you and others unthinkingly tossed out ate away at my self-confidence. Their words and yours made me dislike the way I looked. Their words and yours made me wish that I was born lighter, born whiter, so I would never have to think for a single second that my race was the only deciding factor in your rejection, in your judgment, and in your insensitivity.

I’m a brown-skinned girl with black hair and dark brown eyes and full lips. God made me perfectly. He loves the way He made me. He is enthralled with my beauty. His creativity is displayed through my distinct features. So if I’m good enough for Him, why am I not good enough for you or your family? Why do you talk to me the way you do- as if we weren’t both knit in our mothers’ wombs? As if we did not have the same Creator- and as if somehow He made you better, made you worth more than me because of your lighter complexion.

Just like you, I am not just my skin color. I’m a culmination of thoughts, ideas, and feelings; of past experiences, present hopes, and future aspirations. I’m lazy at times, incredibly ambitious at others. My room is incredibly cluttered all the time, because I hate throwing things away. I cry a lot, but I laugh more. I create my own sound effects, I burst into song randomly, I frequently trip when going upstairs,  and I apologize to my phone when I drop it. I still tear up in Disney movies and refuse to acknowledge that Pluto is no longer a planet. These traits do not exist because of my race, but because I am Kayla– your friend, your acquaintance, the girl you sat across from on a bus once. I refuse to stay in the box your preconceived stereotypes have tried to place me in. I will hold fast to the truths of God and who He says I am. I am a person, worthy of love and respect, not because of what I look like but because of who I am. I am a cherished daughter of the King of the Universe and I will not let you define me. I refuse to let you tell me I am not good enough, not white enough to be a part of your family. I refuse to let you make me resent the color of my skin. I am radiant, because I am His. I am loved, because I am His. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, because I am His. Brown skin and all.

3 thoughts on “Color and Character

  1. My sweet neice…. these words are so beautiful and sad all in one. Don’t let anyone tell you to change who you are just to make them feel better. Stay true to yourself and you will continue to soar into the amazing woman that you are. Love you…

    Like

  2. Well written piece, you’re a gifted writer, and it’s courageous of you to share your pain and struggle with us. I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised to hear these stories because I just don’t think that way. I’ve always thought skin color was the most irrelevant way to “sort” a person and it’s truly heart breaking to me that some people even care. I’ve traveled all over the world and people come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, and yes, skin color. There’s so much more to people than appearance.

    God bless you, Kayla! Keep writing!

    Like

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