Hate Me Now
Because I Am Light Skinned and I Identify With My Brown Skinned Daughter
Rachel Dolezal’s story is complicated and she lacks a certain empathy and integrity in her refusal to admit any deception or wrongdoing, but what I do understand is how having a black manchild in America and being fully cognizant of your privilege in relation to him could lead one to take that last step and crossover — almost.
I am the daughter of two people of African descent. My mother is from Bermuda and my father (the New Yorker) hails from the American South. While there is quite evidently some mixing of European and Native American in my bloodline, I am the descendant of slaves and my parents — who, when they met, had independently shaken off those shackles and taken the same last name of Minister Malcolm like thousands of others in the Nation of Islam.
Born out of a struggle for racial justice, my family celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day way before it was a national holiday. I’ve always been ‘bout it, for the people, and even became a rap publicist when I graduated from college, all the while reaching across boundaries and binaries to bring folks of different sorts together. In a college application essay I even fancied myself a “bridge across troubled water.” I would lay me down.
But it was not until I had my eldest daughter who took on the deep brown hue of my grandmother and my West African husband that I ached to be browner myself.
Mine is not the story of a white parent that identifies with her brown children after a life steeped in the struggle and an appreciation of the richness of African American culture. Yes, I’m talking ‘bout Rachel Dolezal. But part of me understands. For when my four year old daughter comes home from school wondering why she does not have yellow hair or light skin and gets the honor of being labeled “unique” in her class, I hold my delicious “chocolate kiss” close as I devour her in hugs and kisses, tell her how beautiful she is — like her dolls, her father, and her great grandmother — and relate tales of African and African American greatness. But she still wants to be like me, her mother, her best friend and first love, yellow.
Her words, not mine, and no manner of cultural analysis and understanding of European beauty standards or my curly ‘fro can soothe that. I know it will be fine and my daughter’s an uber confident little lady but sometimes I wish I could walk that path with her and not only as her ally and advocate.