When I was 16 years old, I remember riding the bus to school one morning. Two of my male classmates sat across from me. I was totally disinterested in them. I’d seen them before but they never registered in my mind at all. Then one of them said, “Alicia Cunningham, she’s only a B. She’s to dark to be an A.” I looked up. First, shocked that they knew my name but then the audacity to rate me while I was sitting there. So, I looked up annoyed and they kept going over all the girls in my class. Apparently, I wasn’t much to look at or talk about.
Then, when I was in college, a popular frat boy told me that I certainly had the face of a light skinned woman but because I was too dark, he couldn’t take me home to his mother. I remember feeling crushed, demoralized and angry. I just couldn’t win a beauty contest. Guys would always joke and tell me that I looked like a little sister but only the lighter skinned girls were attractive. It hurt, deep. Inside, I told myself that I must be ugly because I was too dark.
So what about Satoshi Kanazawa’s post, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” After reading it, I wished that I were Kendall Grey not because she’s white but because she’s a curser. A part of me wanted to curse, scream and fight such foolishness. Where does this Japanese dude get off telling Black women that they are “signifigantly less physically attractive than women of other races?” He even used his funky reasoning to say that it’s probably because Black women are heavier and have more testerone than other women. I wonder about the design and basics of his study. Hmmm.
After watching Oprah’s 25th anniversary and closing show, it dawned on me. She said all of her shows boiled down to one thing, “unworthiness.” When I think about this study, I can see Celie with her hands up to Mister “I might be black and ugly but I’m here.” She was telling him that she mattered, that God created her and no amount of discounting her life or her beauty would take that away.
Each day, I walk into the schoolhouse with girls who look like I did when I was a child. They need a champion. Someone who can help them to realize that they are worthy. That they are beautiful. I go out of my way to write a protagonist that I feel exemplifies beauty. XJ Patterson is tall, lanky, smart with braids but she is beautiful with her pecan colored skin. I can’t wait to unveil my story and introduce readers to her.
I’ve got it. I don’t fit the European (or Japanese) standard of beauty. Hey, I eat and I’m overweight. I have nappy hair down to my butt and my skin is a reddish brown color. Satoshi Kanazawa can say what he’d like about me. BTW, I didn’t think he was all that attractive either. So I think the feelings are mutual.
What I can say to young Black women through my writing is that as a race of women, we have been strong, loving, generous, kind, survivors and in the end, we are beautiful by all standards. In the words of Patricia Bell Scott, “All the women are white and all the men are blacks but some of us are brave.”
Psychology Today article was taken down but here’s another version:
If you feel like saying something about this, please do. But make sure you sign the color of change petition: