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When I was 11 my auntie called me inside from playing with my cousin. We were playing basketball. My hair was braided with zig-zags going all the way back. I thought it looked dope. When I got inside I asked my auntie if she needed me for anything and she replied that she wanted me to go upstairs and wait for her- she wanted to ask me something.

Without hesitation I go upstairs and wait in her bedroom for her. I was so scared and nervous. My heart damn near leaped out of my chest. You see, my auntie is old school, the type of woman that will whoop you with an extension cord while you are taking a bath. So, naturally, I’m about to piss my pants while I’m waiting for her to finish her beer and come upstairs.

Every possible transgression I had committed over that weekend soared through my mind—Did she find out I kissed Lil Rob by the mailboxes? Did she know we played booty tag last night? Was she mad that we played door bell ditch at the blind man’s house? Did Kayla tell her that I called her an evil bitch at the breakfast table?

Finally, she came upstairs. She entered the room and closed the door behind her. Her lean body slightly hunched over just inches away from the door. She stood there with her hand on her hip and in all seriousness she says, “tell your auntie somethin’, and don’t you lie—you like girls?”

“No ma’am” I replied. She continued, “You dark, like I’m dark—Do you hate yourself?

No response.

She stood there for a moment, both of us drowning in the silence that filled the room. She locked me in that room that day for 6 hours. Her instructions were simple: stand there, look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful until you believe it.

I obeyed, all the while thinking she needed this more than I did. You see, my auntie was beautiful with dark skin. The type of blackness the etched itself into your consciousness. She had four children, two dark and two light- she considered the latter two beautiful.

Colorism is real.

This caste system has existed in the black community (in America) since slavery. Stemmed from Master having house niggas and field niggas. House niggas were light-skinned slaves were worked in the house and sometimes used for more “delicate” work. Field niggas were used out in the fields under the harsh sun and watchful eye of the over-seer.

While, colorism is a form of intergroup stratification suffered by African Americans, this is a issue that several black communities around the world suffer from. Honestly, why else are Dominicans considered exotic and desirable while Haitians are considered brutal, dangerous, and less desirable—they come from the same Island, essentially they are the same people.

Colorism fuels hate, and self-hate at that. Across the African Diaspora there are so many Black communities that suffer from this.

As a Black woman, with a rich chocolate skin complexion before I ever thought to hate myself, the issue was brought to me. And while, I can confidently say that I love the skin I’m in and never thought of it as burden, that is not the simple truth for those around me.

I’ve been called: darkie, blackie, black speckled spot. All names given to me to make me feel small and ostracized by those in my very same community, sometimes in my family.

Men have said: you’re cute for a dark girl—Is that even a compliment?

I used to shy away from wearing bold colors, because I was told dark girls couldn’t pull off certain looks.