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  • Writer's pictureKadiatou Tubman

A Love Letter to My Blackness

I am a Black woman….and I want you to know how difficult it was to post this selfie. I want you to know how, before every selfie post, I host an internal debate between anti-blackness and self-love. I want you to know that I grew up obsessing over my Black features; I coveted skin lightening creams and prayed for Neutrogena, Clean & Clear and Maybelline to erase what society saw as blemishes: my dark skin, my wide nose, my thick lips.

I want you to know that I remember every time I’d been called ugly: my playmates who made fun of my skin tone and African name; my light-skinned elementary school “BF” who dumped me to take a white Latinx to the 5th grade prom because “the photos”; and my mother who battled her own internalized anti-blackness but used words like “monkey” & “ugly” against me.

I’ve felt the pain of anti-blackness and I’ve been deliberate & aggressive about healing & abolishing it. I’m impatient with conversations that don't interrogate the role anti-Blackness plays in our cultures, education, institutions, and movements. I’m also impatient with conversations about anti-racism or self-love that don’t examine how anti-Blackness is the root of racism and low self-worth.

I want you to know that the white criteria of desirability (thin nose, thin lips, thin body, clear skin, able body) not only upholds the hatred of Blackness. It proliferates the criminalization of dark people. That’s why most Black lives taken by police violence are dark-skinned. That’s why dark-skinned people suffer the most under racism and all systems of oppression.

I want you to know it’s constant work and unlearning to love myself and other Black people in a world determined to undermine that work. And even though I experience low self worth every now and then, there’s a spectrum where I’d be considered more desirable than others. I think about others who never hear “you’re beautiful”--never feel desirable or worthy because they don’t meet some shitty anti-Black criteria. I think about us and do the work.

I’m a dark-skinned Black bisexual woman & educator who loves Black people. I don’t tear them down--I build them up. I love and honor them, starting with myself.

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