It’s incredible how something can be your greatest burden and most prized possession all at the same time. Plagued by the fear of what can come with it: being shot and killed in my own home by authorities, profiled when I walk the aisles of stores, stereotyped before I even open my mouth. Yet, there’s no other skin I’d rather be in than this one. It’s radiant, it’s rich, and it represents a lengthy history of resilient ancestors. My skin makes me a part of a people who to this day, haven’t given up the fight, no matter how hard it’s gotten. It’s wrought in trauma and fear, pain and suffering, yet radiates in any room. I wouldn’t trade my Black skin for the world, no matter the plight that it may bring.
I realized at an early age that my skin represented something much different than that of my white counterparts. My parents put me in a private, Catholic school as a young girl and as one of the only two Black students in the class, the divide was always clear. My white classmates would make comments about my hair, make it a point to tell me that I was brown when we’d color self-portraits, and on occasion, repeat ignorant comments about Black people that they’d undoubtedly heard from their parents. That was nearly two decades ago, though, and while at the time their words or stares would have made me self-conscious, I now stand in it proudly.
As I grew older, I understood more profoundly the ramifications of having skin like mine. I learned of the atrocities of slavery, the triumphs of the civil rights movement, and eventually, became haunted as an adult by the untimely deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor. It’s impossible to not be reminded of the pain that comes with Black skin every day. And I share my fear not because I’m ashamed, but as a testament to how incredible it is that in the midst of everything created to dim our light, we continue to shine unapologetically.
That’s why every single day I do what I can to cherish the skin I’m in. I look in the mirror first thing when I wake up, and I say to myself: “Every cell in my body is beautiful, and that beauty radiates outwards.” I gaze at my brown complexion, beautiful thick hair, large brown eyes, and full curves with a spirit of appreciation. I spare no expense with my skincare and body routines, draping my skin in the best soaps, moisturizers, scrubs, serums, and mists that money can buy. I’m leery of the cosmetics I apply to it, as to not damage the richness of my skin tone. I listen to it, pampering it when it needs, and shielding it from the elements that may damage its surface. One may say that my skincare routine is marked by excess, and I couldn’t agree more. However, my reason why is much more than just wanting clear skin. In fact, it’s an appreciation of my heritage as a whole. In my opinion, I feel like it’s my obligation to treat my skin this way. My Black complexion represents more than just a color. Just like my people, it’s fragile yet resilient, and while it may not always get the treatment it deserves, it’s vocal about what it will and will not tolerate. It must be cared for properly, is deserving of luxury and protection. I, am deserving of luxury and protection.
My Black skin is nothing short of a blessing, so I treat it as such. I lend it constant grace and mercy for everything that it’s overcome.