Black women have the unique task of dealing with the daily struggles of school or work, all while facing larger systems of societal oppression. Because of this, it is vital that we take care of ourselves—not out of selfishness or self-indulgence, but as an act of self-preservation. Self-care isn’t just limited to taking relaxing baths with lush bath bombs and meditating or doing yoga. An important component of self-care is learning when to say no and learning when and how to stand up for yourself. This means that it’s important we recognize our rights and never allow anyone to shame us into silence about the issues that we must face on a day to day basis. Here are five things that dark-skinned black women should never have to apologize for:
1. Being Angry
One of the most frustrating parts of being a black woman—especially a dark skinned black woman—is having to deal with constant messages from the people around us and mainstream media, about how our hair textures, bodies and features are simply not good enough. For years’ black women were consistently ridiculed for our big lips, while our cornrows and dreadlocks were considered unkempt and “ghetto”. Yet, on white women, big lips and hairstyles that are traditionally worn by black women are not only trendy, but can be a catalyst for a career in beauty or music. Moreover, black women also have to fend off insensitive, misogynistic comments from both black men and non-black men who seem to enjoy mocking our facial features, skin tones, hair types, weight and attitudes.
Black women have many reasons to be angry at the world and if you need to, take time to scream into a pillow, cry in the shower, talk out your anger with understanding friends, or speak to a professional counsellor. However, it’s also helpful to remember that while your anger is completely understandable and justified (and you have the right to deal with it as you choose) remaining in a place of anger and resentment, will only put your sense of worth, self-esteem and mental health at risk. After you’ve allowed yourself to feel anger, make sure to focus on doing activities that you enjoy and spend time with positive, affirmative people who will help you carve a safe space for yourself in this fundamentally flawed society.
2. Speaking Up About Colorism
Colorism is not simply a “beauty” issue and dark-skinned women are not simply complaining about not being desirable in the media (although we have the right to make that complaint too). The issue affects dark-skinned black women and girls in every arena of life, including which careers that are available to us or whether or not we are convicted of a crime. A recent study by Georgetown Law revealed that adults view black girls as less innocent and less in need of nurturing, than white counterparts. This means that black girls are five times more likely to be suspended, and that prosecutors dismiss 30 percent of cases against black girls, while giving a pass to 70 percent of cases against white girls.
When colorism is affecting every aspect of our lives as deeply as it is, we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced by those who don’t have our best interests at heart. We are not being “bitter” and “jealous” when we speak up about colorism or share our experiences. Instead, by speaking up and educating ourselves and others on this issue we are taking back our power and refusing to cower in the face of colorism.
3. Not Falling Within the European Standard of Beauty
Conforming to the white standard of beauty is not only harmful to the black female psyche, but it’s also extremely inconvenient and time-consuming and can even be dangerous to our bodies. For black women, our hair grows up and out, and attempting to fall within European hair standards often requires hours of flat-ironing our hair, or using chemical relaxers that studies have shown lead to uterine fibroids and an increased risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer. Black women shouldn’t have to bleach our skin or straighten our natural coily, kinky locs to fit standards of beauty or to appear “professional” in the workplace.
Let’s stop apologizing for the way our hair grows naturally, or for our full, Afrocentric facial features, sun-kissed dark skin, or our curvier figures. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate our beauty, we can still celebrate and appreciate ourselves, because the truth is: we deserve it.
4. Not Being Strong and Invincible
Black women, you don’t have to be strong and invincible. It’s wonderful to be strong, independent and fierce, but it’s also understandable to feel insecure and unsure sometimes. One of the worst aspects of living in a racist and colorist society, is that it robs us of the benefits of vulnerability and convinces us that we must be perfect to be worth anything in this world. Despite what this world says, we are allowed to feel the full range of emotions. We don’t have to smile every moment of every day to avoid being type cast as the stereotypical “angry black girl”—just like any other human, we have a right to feel anger and sadness, and it is perfectly okay not to be okay all the time.
5. Not Supporting People Who Don’t Support Us
It’s not enough to “cancel” problematic, colorist and racist people on social media. Words can only do so much. To have a real impact, black women need to withdraw our financial support from anyone who disrespects the black female image. If we begin to be more selective with our support and only lend it to people and organizations that support us, companies like Shea Moisture will no longer feel so entitled to the support of black women. They will no longer feel comfortable enough to disrespect the loyal black female consumers who singlehandedly elevated the company to the status that it has today. Although people may try to shame us for finally seeing our self-worth and not being willing to put up with constant disrespect, we must continue to disavow the people and companies who are not worth our time. By withdrawing our money and support from harmful Hollywood films, modeling agencies and colorist entertainers who mock and disrespect darker-skinned Black women, people will soon learn how dangerous it is to disrespect dark-skinned black women in the media.
"Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law."