It’s genuinely interesting to me how some Black men who have the exact same complexion and hair texture that I do…insult me…for complexion and/or hair texture. And…insult other Black women. Regularly. Especially if they have a dark complexion.
Of course, I’m fully aware of the socio-cultural history of Black hair and hair politics, colourism, and the feminization of “light skin.” I’m aware of how it manifests present-day. I’m aware of systematic approaches by individuals, institutions and the media to ensure the marginalization and/or complete erasure of Black women who don’t look like Lolo Jones. And even for some who do.
But…sometimes even aside from the historical and current day manifestations, away from the sociopolitical Tumblr blogs and in-depth analyses via films, tweets and books…to just a walk down the street where perhaps all of this knowledge is placed on hold just to enjoy a breeze or the sight of a flower sprouting up amidst two concrete slabs of sidewalk…I’m interrupted by such complexion and hair texture insults. They’re either directed at me or other Black women I see while out and about. I’m interrupted by street harassment that quickly devolves into colour and hair comments. Even recently I was told (by a Black man of the same complexion, who had the SAME hair texture…literally…) that my hair looks like worms. Worms?
Before I even think of the complex reasons why such comments are stupid, the first thought that always goes through my mind is “but…we look…alike.”
Yesterday, TMZ, in their usual disrespectful way, tweeted a mugshot of music legend and genius Lauryn Hill. (Her tax troubles have been very public. Two months ago, she wrote an interesting and in-depth response to all of this.) They added the label “ANGRY” to their tweet about her, because in their mind, like in many, a Black woman is automatically angry, and…who is “happy” in a mugshot? Critical thinking is not one of their strong suits. Thinly veiled (as well as overt at times) racism, sexism, sensationalism and unprofessionalism are. What made it worse is that Black people (men and women) tweeted that she looks like a “man” (despite extremely gorgeous and feminine facial features…I’ve never seen any man who looks like her, especially with her eyes or jaw.) simply because her haircut is short, her hair is in its natural state, and she has a rich beautiful brown complexion. (In this context, using “man” is to imply that she is ugly…it’s not truly about men and attractiveness or not.)
I have heard Black men state that they married (or want to marry) White (or other non-Black women) so that their children would (can) be “attractive.” I know it is meant as an insult to Black women…but once a Black woman is NOT the selected partner, these Black men are saying that there’s STILL 50% “bad” genetics there. Their own. Only non-Black partners can help this. If anything, I feel pity for them, not sadness for me. I am not even there. I’m not a part of this breeding equation. He’s stating that who remains there is “bad,” not only who he supposedly rejected. A child has the DNA of the two breeding parents…not the DNA of the one supposedly rejected. If a specific type of parent is needed to guarantee attractiveness, isn’t the other parent speaking negatively of their own DNA?
Certainly all people who have interracial race relationships don’t pursue them solely for this reason. I don’t suggest this. But as easily as there are multicultural true love stories, there are ones where the single or mutual hate of a third party is stronger than the love between the pair. There are ones where the racial politics of internalized White supremacy are so pervasive that the perceived passion is really tumultuous and complex self-hatred, projected on others and used as the mortar to seal a throne (for the non-Black party to sit on) made up of guilt, confusion and centuries of racial baggage and pain.
It is interesting how complex self-hatred is. It can make someone look in the mirror and call their own reflection ugly, and then decide that the reflection and self are two different entities. Foreign. And enemies. Forever.
The Lil’ Wayne types of Black men with the horrid racial politics always think that what they’re saying and doing only reflects on their perceived notion of Black women’s inferiority. How can it though? Racialized hatred about appearance features that we share as Black people, men and women, is a hatred of all of us. A hatred of themselves (despite the media “okaying” darkness for Black men but not Black women, again related to the feminization of light skin). The rhetoric that implies it’s only about how women look is laughable. And sad. If it wasn’t, imagine how utterly stupid a White man would sound saying that women with hair and skin like his are so ugly. People laugh at this because White supremacy, Eurocentric beauty myths and racism makes it sound ridiculous right of the bat. But beyond this surface, most still accept that it sounds stupid because they think “but…you look…alike? How is she ugly…but you aren’t?”