#TreasuresOfDarkness Day 26, Job 30:30
“My skin turns black and falls from me,
And my bones burn with heat”
I remember the first time I realized my black skin defined me as something “other.” It was subtle, but I still remember the sting of that reality. I wanted it to fall from me and maybe my new skin will come back as a little tan, but lighter for sure—perhaps I wouldn’t be so “other.” It’s a total mind game. Colorism is real.
The first time I realized my black skin was going to be a problem, I was 11. I brought a drinking container to school with Kool-Aid in it—the red kind, because it’s good, and they didn’t make drinks that had that sugary goodness I was so used to. It was the end of my first school year in this small suburban town with lots of hues of pale and pink, not many other brown and black bodies to relate to. But I still got along fine. Passed all of my classes. I wasn’t a problem child, so I was confused when my teacher pulled me into the gray hot classroom (it was almost summer break), and asked me if I had alcohol in my container. Weird…I was so confused. Did they go through my things? What did I do wrong? I answered the accusing stares with a “didn’t y’all ever have Kool-Aid before?” and I offered up a sip. The teacher, looking relieved, smiled at me and said “No, that’s ok. You can go back and have fun. Next time don’t bring containers to school.” Lesson learned. No containers with juice at the white school, cause I didn’t want my friendly white teachers to think I was drinking alcohol. Being 11 wasn’t young enough to be innocent anymore—at least not here.
At the time I was just embarrassed and sad.
Had I not done enough to fit in?
My skin turns black and falls from me
Or at least I wished that day.
And while I’m not certain my experience is relatable, I imagine what it was like to walk into the first integrated schools as a black girl. Dorothy Counts lasted a week. The courage it took to walk past the screams and the jeers. Drowning out the sounds of discontent and anger because you dared to be where you weren’t welcomed.
The thing about being black is that you can’t quite get rid of the melanin that makes you you. I mean there are ways around it, but if you just want to be who you are, it comes with a responsibility you don’t always have control over. It makes me think of Trayvon Martin and his hoodie. It’s been five years and one day since he was killed.
And that’s the thing about #BlackHistoryMonth, we black all day, errday, but it’s nice to have my Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded with other blackness. Proud heritage. Painful heritage. People who have come before that know what it’s like to be accused, hated, ridiculed—and, yes—killed just because they were black.
And my bones…they do burn, but not because I’m scared or embarrassed. Nah. Because there’s fire within. I find it so liberating to love this black skin that I embrace—now.