The Skin I'm In: Being a Black Woman in America

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Embrace & Love

Every day I learn to love the color of my skin more and more!

 

As Black History Month comes to an end and being at an international school I’ve begun to think more and more about what it means and how I feel about being a black woman in this country. What does being black mean to me? To be honest, I’ve never truly given it a proper thought. It’s a pretty loaded question.

Unfortunately, living in this country I am constantly aware of the color of my skin.

I notice it when I enter a room and look around to see no one who looks like me.

I notice it when I watch my favorite television programs or movies.

I notice it when there is a separate aisle for my skin care and hair care products in the store.

I notice it on social media when I send my friends pictures and the filters lighten my skin.  

A few years ago at my undergrad university, a group of students known as the (White Student Union) decided to patrol the campus for “suspicious activity”. This came at a time when the #BlackLivesMatter movement began to catch the attention of the mass media at the height of police shootings involving black men. I would usually work out after class late at night and would have to walk from the gym back to my dorm. I would wear a sweatshirt with my hoodie up and my earphones in. Because of that and the color of my skin was that considered "suspicious acitivity"? This was the first time I was truly afraid because of the color of my skin.

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When I entered the workforce a couple of years later particularly the tech and government industry, I began to see that as a black woman my value was not perceived the same as a man. The respect was not same. The type of work was not the same. The level of credibility was not the same. Was it because I was a woman, black or both?

As I got older I became more self-aware and aware of the world around me. What I was noticing and experiencing was nothing new. It was the same thing every black woman before me had struggled with. To think we are still fighting for the same rights and level of respect as human beings that activist Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were fighting for 50+ years ago still blows my mind.

With the lack of black representation I see in mainstream media, it's important for me to love myself for who I am. The color of my skin, though it doesn’t represent my entire worth, is part of my identity. Being black to me means loving and learning more about my African culture. Loving my hair in all of its forms. Embracing the rich ancestry from which I derive. It means being proud of where I come from while staying true to who I am and where I am going. It means loving those who don’t love me because someone has to be the bigger person.

P.S. Shout out to the Black Panther movie for giving black girls everywhere the chance the see themselves on the big screen. Not as supporting characters, troupes, or clichés. But as bada** heroes, strong women, and indiviuals who love and embrace where they come from. 

 

Photos taken by: Karolina Vasconcellos E Sa