December 5, 2021


Only The Finest Women

How White Beauty Standards Affect Mixed Black Women

We stay in a modern society that is dominated by how one particular appears to be like. As a great deal as we laud the relevance of interior beauty, character, accomplishment, and the like, as well generally what we are initial judged by are our appears to be like. In the United States, a white aesthetic has traditionally been the common that non-white women are held to when it comes to evaluating their beauty, which is instantly a shedding proposition for us. For women of all ages of coloration, viewing our hairstyles, vogue decisions, and aesthetic be appropriated and glorified in mainstream culture when worn by white females and demonized when ladies of coloration rock the exact same hairstyles, fashions, and aesthetic is a bitter tablet to swallow.

From this backdrop, it is no surprise that as a young woman of coloration, I struggled to come across and fully grasp natural beauty in myself.

Now, will not get me erroneous: I always felt acknowledged and liked by my spouse and children and my local community. But I normally caught out like a sore thumb. College and family photos felt like a “Where’s Waldo” story in which, to discover me, you only had to pick out the one speck of pepper in the salt, which was fairly easy to do. 

When I was younger, remaining rather did not subject a great deal to me, as I was additional engrossed in a mini-existential disaster whereby I located myself much too generally owning to describe my existence to men and women. It felt at moments as if I necessary to justify my existence in white spaces—like the time when I was about 12 and rode my bike to a nearby ice cream stand, and whilst waiting around in line, the gentleman in front of me started off supplying me the 3rd degree about wherever I was from, inquiring if I was a foster boy or girl, or if my mom was cleansing the dwelling for another person all around there and introduced me along. When he did not like my responses (that I lived close by) mainly because I “could not quite possibly be from his neighborhood,” it took standing my ground and explaining that in fact I was from his community when blinking back again tears—and his spouse, ultimately noticing this, admonishing him to “leave the very poor little one by itself.”

Statements like “no, I am not adopted” or “no, I am not a foster boy or girl this is my mother” have been regular refrains when I was younger. A couple of instances I even instructed mates that my pores and skin color was fundamentally a “everlasting tan” so they would prevent inquiring me about why I was brown when my mother and father were being white. (When I was a baby, my mom married yet another man—a white man—who adopted me and raised me as his very own.)

As a child, I would normally intently take a look at my spouse and children users my grandparents, my mom, my sisters, my cousins, recognizing the similarities in between them but by no means seriously observing myself mirrored back again in their faces. Looking at pics of my organic father did not spark any recognition of self possibly it was like wanting at a stranger because he was. 

I listened to all styles of new music back again then and ravenously eaten pop culture like all fantastic tweens and teenagers do. I was exposed to illustrations or photos and representations of lovely and renowned Black women—Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jada Pinkett, Nia Prolonged, and other people. But their aesthetic and natural beauty were being international to me since the most influential women of all ages in my existence had been all those closest to me, which designed them all automatically beautiful in my eyes.

The challenge for me then was being aware of that I could by no means look like them. My hair was not straight and lengthy but somewhat curly and deceptively brief. Their eyes had been blue or environmentally friendly mine had been honey brown. Their skin was white, and mine was bronze. At one particular position, I did try out straightening my hair by calming it and was horribly burnt by the substances. That was in 10th grade and the final time I at any time tried out comforting my hair.

At the time, I never believed of myself as attractive or unattractive. I was just me, and I labored with what I experienced. My close friends and spouse and children did their greatest to establish me up, telling me how adorable I was or how nice I seemed in the different ensembles I put collectively evidently, I experienced my individual special style and styling flair. I often appreciated the compliments but took the praise as them loving on me and didn’t just take their words and phrases much too severely.

As I bought more mature and boys started off coming into the photograph, I recall remaining instructed on innumerable instances that I was “pretty for a Black female.” I was and am generally incredulous as to how people boys could actually believe that was a compliment. In my head, I often imagined, what does that mean—am I quite or not? Was I not meant to be really mainly because I was Black?

A person boy advised me to my encounter that even even though he identified me lovely, he could by no means “provide me residence” mainly because his mother and father wouldn’t take me. He mentioned I would have to be on the degree of the gals in TLC (the popular ’90s to early ’00s R&B group) for him to “convey me residence.” When he said that, I literally snorted and assumed, “you would like” (since he in no way experienced a probability with me to get started with and presumed that I considered going house to fulfill his mothers and fathers was some sort of privilege…it was not), immediately exited the discussion, and under no circumstances spoke to him once more for the reason that I was so set off.

So, what ultimately aided me change the corner and commence to realize my elegance? I assume it was a blend of things, the main a person remaining the intentional self-education and learning I was going through.

As I matured, I acknowledged that my close friends and family have been quite in their have proper and that their form of magnificence was simply just the desired societal aesthetic archetype. I also understood at a deep intestine level that this aesthetic was not meant for me. In some means, this realization took the strain to conform off of me all through higher university and authorized me to concentration on other factors. I recognized early on that conformity in this feeling was futile, and I produced peace with it.

Since I experienced let go of the require to conform and didn’t spend as significantly time on how I appeared, I dove headfirst into my passions, hobbies, and the activities that created me happiest—activities like student government, sports, marching and live performance band, teen local community improvisational theater, and many others. These activities served me come across my voice and enabled me to carve out my individual very little specialized niche in the world.

A single of the most effective areas of these things to do was that they also uncovered me to a lot of folks outside of the ethnically monolithic community I was remaining lifted in. The people today I met as a result of these routines came from extra numerous backgrounds and had different worldviews. They generously imparted some of those activities and perspectives to me. This is when my point of view of the world began to grow. With this expanded worldview, I turned able to glance at myself with greater eyes, which assisted me contextualize and take away the lens of racism, which for also lengthy tainted how I perceived myself.

As I commenced to discover about and take a look at other cultures and distinctive standards of attractiveness, it led to an appreciation that natural beauty will come in numerous forms—including my personal. Getting components of myself in those people other non-mainstream destinations helped me normalize that magnificence failed to have to be confined to the really narrow box society dictated.