By Najee Hunt
Editor’s Note: The Personal Essays section of the paper is one that invites students to share their personal experiences and thoughts about subjects they are passionate about. The author is not affiliated with The Pioneer, but has given us permission to publish their work.
Staring in the mirror above the sink in my bathroom.
Admiring the reflection as the droplets of water trickle down the structures of my face.
Embracing each and every imperfection God has perfected.
Acknowledging my deep dark chocolate complexion.
Remembering the youthful era of my existence when the darkening of complexion was a curse for me.
Almond to Milk Chocolate
Milk Chocolate to Dark
Sweet to Bitter
Admired to Disregarded
Fascinated by the bitterness in its taste
I have allowed it to make its bed in the pit of stomach
The Bitterness converted to Hatred
And hatred is how I felt about the skin I was living in
It was said the dark the berry, the sweeter the juice.
The darker the flesh, the deeper the roots.
But that was just a euphemism for the dark skin sons and daughters – men and women to find beauty in their dark skin.
Those were the words that we held tightly to our beating hearts to find the love within when our minds were clogged with the overpowering forces of hatred.
“Pudda, I love your dark skin. You’re the chocolate baby I never had. You are so handsome.”
“Grandma, I hate how dark I am? I wish I was much lighter. I am ugly.”
She was speechless, but I was seeking answers of why I hated him, why I hated me.
As we begin to develop as young men, we were taught about puberty. The growing of hair all over our bodies, the pimples upon our faces, the cracking of our voices to the bass that will be left in its place and the development of a substance that assist in the process of reproduction.
We were taught about the birds and the bees. To protect our vulnerable manhood with latex jackets from attracting any unwanted disease or an unplanned fatherhood – shoes far too big to walk a mile in.
But we were never taught about colorism.
As children, we ran in and out of corner stores to buy candy, ices and a bunch of snacks that increase the sugar levels in our bodies.
Ignoring the paper bags that they were so gently placed in by the lovely owners of our corner store bodegas.
But would you believe me if I told you that those were the same paper bags placed by the faces of black men, women and children to determine their value – how worthy they were, was determined by the light tan hue of a bag.
A concept that we wish was abandoned when the chains were shackled around our feet and segregation played its part in actively keeping us in poverty.
Transcended into the 21st century.
When my younger self stood in front of the same mirror above the sink in my bathroom to look at my reflection – discontent with my complexion because of the lack of representation.
As we began to develop as young men
We were taught about masculinity
We were told to maintain a tough interior and exterior
Refrain from wearing our emotions on our sleeves
But they forgot to teach us about the treatment we will receive.
When they see my dark skin, when they see our dark skin
Fascinated by the freckles
Soft hazelnut green grey eyes
And the buttery caramel skin
Dark chocolate was never the trend
We were scary
We were intimidating
We spoke too loud even when we were whispering
We argued too much even when we were expressing
We were too angry even when we were hurting
The opportunities were never overflowing
We always had to play the defense because someone was always trying to tell us that were not right the fit.
That we do not meet the qualifications even when our resumes were long and extensive.
That the darker we are, the lower we should be.
And do you know how that feels
As a young man
To not have control over perception
To be burdened with reflections from people’s projections
When we flip through magazines
And turn on our television screens
We are flooded with chocolate faces
It puts a smile on my face, but I question this objective.
Are people finally standing with us to acknowledge the problem or are they trying to pull a scheme for a diversity campaign?
Please stop using my face, my body, my experience to meet a quota.
No longer do I want to stand front and center on your auction block to be sold to the highest bidder, the highest supporter.