I wished I was a little bit lighter

By Phemii.           By  Getty Images   

By Phemii.           By Getty Images  


Why does my reflection displease me so much? 

Why should the sun devour my complexion and leave me feeling stained?

Why am I not as fair as my mother?

Growing up with a goddess-like mother with lush thick hair and pale skin, these where the questions I asked myself. She was my ultimate idea of beauty. 

I went about my life the same way every princess with a Queen mother would, playing dress up and applying too much eye-shadow while at it. As soon as I realised that I did not look like this goddess, as soon as my eyes found my complexion and my mind noted it as dissimilar to my Queen’s, I questioned whether or not I had a face that remotely resembled beauty. You see it was before I even knew that beauty was subjective and complexion had nothing to do with it that I found my skin tone displeasing and myself not beautiful.

I grew up with a deep-seated hatred for my not-light-enough skin tone that brought me closer to my father than my mother. I was the product of a coloured and black eruption, the toss up of two races with different tones and I landed on black whichserved no bother however I did not come home looking like rooibos with milk, I looked more like coffee with not enough milk. “I did not receive enough lightness” is all I thought and all I grew up uttering to myself until it was embedded in my mind. I wished I was a little bit lighter. Through this, an inferiority complex developed in me where every girl who was lighter in complexion than me, was prettier than me. Every girl who was lighter was more desirable in my eyes because those girls were closer to my mother’s beauty than me, the darker-light skinned girl. 

When I moved to Joburg to end of my primary schooling and start with junior high, I met dark skinned girls whom I found beautiful, one of my best friends leading the pack. It would be an insult to suggest that I had never met beautiful dark skinned females however these girls where not just beautiful they had the knowledge of their beauty all over their posture right through to their walk. I was dumbfounded not by their complexion but their confidence and self-assurance in a complexion I had honestly never found desirable. It was the first time I found females who were more than ten-shades darker than my goddess, beautiful. A fair complexion was not the be-all and end-all of beauty and it seemed beauty too,danced on sunkissed skin. 

My insecurities were not cured but my subconscious had a lot of answering to do. 

When the light-skinned boom occurred and dark-skinned girls were relegated, spoken of as ‘the other’ that was when I realised just how destructive colourism really was. Even then I wished I was a little bit lighter, even then I felt displaced as a black girl. The mind is a powerful and misleading tool when not used accordingly and when it is not fed the right information. In a world where pale is pure and dark and sinister, it only made sense to pursue purity and this is where and how the poison spreads.  

Throughout my childhood, I was victim of self-imposed feelings of inadequacy planted and watered by the media but what I didn’t realise was, I was being indoctrinated into believing that I was not beautiful in my warm caramel skin. What many fail to realise is we rob our African sisters of the knowledge of their own beauty merely through repetitive comparisons in which one party is always not-as-pretty. It is all a joke until it is your daughter who bleaches her skin with harmful detergents in the aim to be lighter. It is fun and games until your sister’s self-esteem rests on the floor like her clothes as she seeks validation in all the wrong places. 

The black community needs to realize that it is one thing for the media to tell us that we are prettier when we’re lighter but a whole new ball game when we are fed the same demeaningdebris by our own people.