Why black people discriminate among ourselves: the toxic legacy of colorism

Illustration: Jamilla Okubo

Illustration: Jamilla Okubo

My grandmother was a great beauty. Everybody said so.

“Like a black Elizabeth Taylor,” was the comment heard most often, because her eyes looked violet in some light. She had a perfect hourglass figure, large clear eyes, a tiny waist, long slim hands, a killer sense of dress and smooth dark skin.

The only trait I shared with her was her skin color. My mother always spoke of this with pride. It was a treasure to be kept whole through diligent care – applications of thick, pasty Eucerin lotion, which used to come in a tub, worked into the skin as it melted down and made everything smooth and shiny. My grandmother used the silkier Nivea instead – kept on the dresser in her all-white bedroom, applied throughout the day. The smell of it still reminds me of the elegance of her life.

That dark skin was the most beautiful was the logic of my family. Growing up, all my Barbies and baby dolls had skin as dark as mine. This was my mother’s conscious choice. She stocked our bookshelves with black children’s books, bought toys and games with black characters. She worked hard to make sure our home was a place where blackness was always celebrated. She was keenly aware, as the mother of three black girls, how the world would treat us, regardless of our varying shades . . .

For the full story by Kaitlyn Greenidge follow the link below to theguardian.com.