Three African American Girls, Galveston, Texas...

Three African American Girls, Galveston, Texas, 1973 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a dark skinned African American raised in Mississippi, color was an integral part of my upbringing. I lived in the state for 15 years before I left to join the military in 1989.I will never forget the school yard taunts of the “high yellows” and the “light browns” who were unmerciful in their teasing.

I still clearly remember the color hierarchy. The cream of the crop consisted of boys and girls who were every light complexioned with yellow or reddish tints to their hue. I guess in the middle were brown skinned boys and girls-light or medium brown. Finally on the bottom you had the dark browns and lord help us… you also had the deep dark-charcoal colored boys and girls.

I was definitely on the third tier. If there was a saving grace, it was the fact that I had a healthy head of hair-albeit a nappy head of hair that needed chemicals and heat!!!

As I grew into adulthood I took those insecurities about skin color and hair into adulthood.

For instance, every time I saw a girl who I thought would be deemed beautiful by society, I would measure myself against her. If she was light skinned as well as pretty, I would console myself with the fact that my hair was longer and prettier.

Growing up with a strict grandmother I had very little interaction with boys while growing up. My sisters and I were forbidden to have boyfriends. Thus, any interaction I had with boys was in a school environment. However, most of my experiences were negative due to the reality that most boys-especially dark boys liked young girls lighter than they were.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I finally began to accept my dark skin as I was often told that I was beautiful.

While I now take pride in my rich skin tone, I still have a deep apprehension about color. For example, whenever I see a deep dusky complexioned person of African descent I often think with a deep regret that I am glad that I am not that Black!!!

While I have no desire to be very, very light, I also don’t want to be on the extreme right of the color spectrum. I have made peace with my color. I now find myself making comparisons with beautiful women who are near my skin tone.

Gabrielle Union and Kelly Rowland are two beautiful African American women who make me proud to wear my color.