I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA under the parental guidance of my grandparents (two southern creoles) from New Orleans, LA. While I grew up as a city girl, I was reared with southern values and New Orleans traditions. My grandparents whom were both light skinned with keen typical creole features (in fact many Latinos would approach my grandad speaking spanish and he’d have to politely explain that he had no idea what there were saying) were a very loving and hospitable duo!
My granny was a superb cook. She could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich taste like a five star entree’. Whenever my granny prepared a grand feast it seemed as if the Creoles all over southern Cali would be knocking at our back door. Partner that with my grandad’s love for a great domino match and open bar and easily our home was now the host for a festive gathering.
I can recall this one particular time a former childhood friend and I were outside playing during one of many festive events. We’ll call her Tiffany; aesthetically she resembled the stereotypical creole phenotype. She was light, almost Latina passing, slender, with type 3A textured hair. She had full lips and somewhat of a negroid nose. Tiffany was definitely racially ambiguous, like many New Orleans Creoles. I on the other hand was the complete opposite in phenotype although we shared the same cultural experiences. I am dark brown in skin tone, with 4A/4B textured hair, and was stacked like a little woman (a ramification of young girls affected by the hormones pumped in our foods causing us to develop past our maturity). Now Tiffany was a year older than me, however if one were to judge based on appearance they’d be inclined to believe that I was older.
My grandparents were extremely strict, we could only play in front of our house. However this particular day they were feeling a bit at ease and decided to allow us to play around the entire block. The residents on my block were like night and day. On my end were the chill working class neighbors with manicured lawns, neighborly but kept to themselves; and on the other end of the block resided the “hoodstas” , the ones you’d think twice about messing with. We decide to go for a walk; we head down my block it appears to be a peaceful day out not too much going on.
As we are near the end of the street suddenly we hear a male voice catcalling through a screen door, we turn around and a group of young men come pouring out onto the porch. Tiffany and I take off running down the block; a bit caught off guard we begin to burst into laughter as we continue to run back towards my house.While approaching the corner where my house is located I can see my father’s oldest sister coming outside to check on all the children. She notices that we are slightly winded and giggley; she inquires as to what has caused our unstoppable laughter and winded breathes.
Tiffany proceeds to tell of the occurrence as I stand by and listen in, still recouping from the sudden ambush (lol). Everything about the rundown of events sounds accurate until Tiffany says and I quote, “they wanted her because of her body, they wanted me because of my face.” I stand there flabbergasted by her words; but to make matters worse my auntie nods in agreeance. In my head I’m like what kind of hating shit is this? For the life of me I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of my own flesh and blood agreeing to me being reduced down to just a body for some 15 seconds of attention from a “group holla” (group of men cat calling on the block).
The statement was preposterous yet very telling; for a brief moment I found myself making comparisons/contrasts between her and I in an effort to figure out where that statement stemmed. We were both nicely dressed, both wore our hair in a ponytail touching the middle of our backs, aside from the texture difference I didn’t see much contrast, and we both had smooth skin. The primary difference was our body type and skin complexion. As previously mentioned Tiffany was light and bright and I the pigment of a divinely darker hue.
This difference in complexion caused her to make such a colorist statement. Prior to this moment I’d truly adored Tiffany and considered her a dear friend. I would look forward to her visits and and we’d even beg her parents and my grandparents for her to stay the night on several occasions. She and I would stay up all night and have girl talk; little did I know. I was naive to her true sentiments, later I’d go on to recognize the the numerous closet colorists creoles within our community, the strange looks, standoffish demeanors, and light skinned “good hair” hierarchy many of them possessed, primarily the women. I began to dread attending the annual red beans and rice festivals at the catholic church, or the creole crawfish boils because of the looks and “cliquish” treatment from the adults but especially their children.
I’d catch some of them staring confused in what appeared to be an attempt to figure out who these four brown/dark children belonged to. What many weren’t aware of was that my grandad was not my biological, but for us he was the only father figure we’d ever known and his youngest had relocated to California to live with us and we were all being raised cohesively as their own; but prior to their union my grandparents both had darker spouses to which we were the product.
In fact I can recall a time when a former college colleague was over visiting my dorm. She noticed a picture I had on the wall of my grandparents she says, “ Aww these are your grandparents! Then why are you so dark?” She too was a New Orleans native no creole blood but light and color struck. I just stared at her for a moment in awe of her ignorance wondering why she hadn’t considered, that was just one side of my family and that perhaps my mother’s side could have been where I’d inherited my phenotype.
I went on to explain that the man in the picture was my step-grandad and my biological grandfather was a dark creole man. My granny said that when she brought my biological grandfather home to meet her “Granmaw” (grandmother) and “Aintee” (Auntie) they both said to her , “Oh gal! Where did you go and find that dark man?” That didn’t stop my granny though, they parted years later due to marital differences, nothing to do with colorism.
Both of my maternal and paternal grandmothers are light skinned; my mother included (all of the men are dark in complexion). My father’s parents are from New Orleans, Louisiana and my mother’s parents are from Marianna, Florida. It was and still is common for dark skinned men of the south to seek out lighter skinned spouses in an effort to breed out their dark skinned (Matthew Knowles spoke of this in his latest memoir); my parents being the product of these unions displayed similar sentiments in their dating options. However growing up amongst my immediate family as the darkest child/grandchild I can honestly say that I never experienced colorism.
In fact I was the apple of my paternal grandmother’s eye. She showered me with so much love and special attention, perhaps it was because she knew the world wouldn’t be so kind to a little dark skinned girl. While the experience with Tiffany was eye opening and caused me to be more cognizantly aware of who I call my friend; it has not left me with a bitter taste in my mouth towards light skinned women. In fact all the love I received growing up has always made me feel and think of myself in the highest regard. It’s funny the way the scales of Ma’at have weighed in my favor.
Tiffany and I eventually grew apart not necessarily over the colorist comments but she started running with a group of chicks that looked and thought more like her and I was over it by that point. I still see her from time to time at the neighborhood market and a few times at a popular LA mall. We lock eyes, but y’all know how people see you but act as if they didn’t . (lol) She quickly looks away and tugs at her clothing in an attempt to hide or cover up, ( she doesn’t exactly fit the “light skinned/red bone” body type currently) while I coincidently happen to be looking pretty darn good. I don’t trip, I’m sort of tickled by the encounters. It’s amazing how we went from eating grits and eggs together on saturday mornings at my granny’s table to complete strangers.
Tiffany’s behavior is quite common among colorist light skinned women. They want you to be fly but not flier than them. It was fun while it lasted; unfortunately she is now known as a former Colorist Chick in my Circle.
“I am a writer with a passion for using my voice to speak on the issues many refuse. My hobbies include writing, dancing, and gardening. A fan of all shades of blue; with a slight addiction to popcorn, chips and salsa. I teach but more importantly I learn; continuously. Did I mention I'm a writer; and I'm serious about my content?!”