Black Is Beautiful

Calvin Lupiya-cdc72979

Growing up, I hated the color of my skin and the texture of my hair. I grew up in an Asian community and oftentimes the kids and adults made comments that made me feel uncomfortable in my body. I wished then that my skin was milky and I could run my fingers through my hair without wincing.

My father is a Chinese man while my mother is an African woman from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, west Africa. Her very dominant genes made my father’s Asian qualities have very little effect on my physique. I was blessed with a dark skin and hair that rebelled against gravity. The only thing that looked Asian about me was my eyes.

My dislike for who I was started with me scrubbing my body too hard when my mother let me wash myself in hopes that if I continued like that my skin would become lighter. I even resorted to using a sponge made out of iron scraps meant for washing burnt pots and pans on my skin. I ended up bruising myself and to my dismay, when the bruise healed it revealed dark skin again.

“Why would you use iron sponge on your skin?!” My mother was very furious when she learnt of what I had done. My father observed us silently from the doorpost of my room.

“I don’t like the color of my skin,” I admitted, my voice as low as a whisper. It was the first time I had voiced out this insecurity to them. I was only six then.

My mother’s glare melted away at my words. Slowly and steadily, she came to sit by my side on my bed. My father also did. My mother enveloped me in a big hug and let me wet her blouse with tears. She gushed on about how I should see myself as a unique being and pay no ears to the thoughts of others while my father proclaimed how much he loved me and my color.

Their words boosted my morale lightly but the comments didn’t stop so yet again, I loathed my africanism.

When I was fourteen, I went to shop for groceries with my father on a fateful day. I had stopped to study a product while my father continued down the aisle when I heard two ladies talk about me loudly in Chinese. Maybe they thought I didn’t understand the language. When I deciphered their demeaning words, I didn’t cry though tears itched to pour out. They said I looked like an ape and maybe it was my kind of people the white scientist were referring to when they said we evolved from apes. I just acted like I didn’t hear them and walked stiffly to my father and latched onto his arms. He eyed me warily but when I shot him a smile, he continued his shopping. If he had consoled me, I would have surely cried.

When we drove back home, I sulked as the women’s words kept playing in my head and I didn’t know when a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Kainene what is wrong?!” My father asked alarmed, attempting to park the car at the side of the road.

“I’m fine. It’s my eyes. They keep tearing up.”

“Oh.” He resumed driving. “We should probably go to the clinic soon before your eyes get worse.”

After that day, anytime I looked at my reflection on my full length mirror, the word ‘ape’ floated around in my mind. So I made a choice.

I secretly got a lightening cream and at the same time got a hair relaxer kit. My mother was very disappointed when I came out one morning prepared for school with permed hair. She refused to talk to me throughout the morning and my father couldn’t even get words out when he noticed my hair.

It didn’t even take long for my mother to realize that I was bleaching my skin. She noticed I was getting lighter and she confronted me about it but I denied her allegations. She didn’t buy it so one day she ransacked my room when I left for school and saw the cream I used. She scolded with angry tears in her eyes when I came back home.

“First you perm your hair without my permission and now you bleach your skin?! What are you trying to do? Change yourself?!”

“Maybe.” I didn’t give her the chance to say anymore. I rushed into my room and bawled my eyes out.

That night, I overheard my mother and father talking in their room. My mother was suggesting I went back to Nigeria for the sake of my mental health. She reasoned with my father that living among my people may help me feel comfortable in my skin.

I liked the Idea. It would be nice to live among people who were like me and wouldn’t judge me for what I looked like.

When they came to my room the next morning to tell me their plans, I agreed without a second thought.

Coming back to Nigeria was very refreshing to both my mind and body. I was happy I came back and wished I even grew up here. People commented on how beautiful and shiny my skin was. When ever someone said I was getting plump, they even meant it as a compliment. It was surprising to me and it boosted my body positivity. I even got a therapist to help me in throwing out the mindset I had grown with. That Black is ugly.

Black isn’t. I may have realized this late but I would always remember that; Black is beautiful. Black is bold. Black is Gold.

I told myself that I would forever cherish my skin and flaunt my hair.

Now anytime I look in the mirror, I see a queen. My skin is my regalia and my hair is my freakin’ crown.

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