Anonymous - I remember growing up in a predominantly white school, and when I looked around, I didn’t understand why my nostrils were bigger, why my lips were bigger, why my hair didn’t swing when it was put in a ponytail, or why I had to put chemicals on it for it to look “presentable.” Why did I have to walk away from the salon with chemical wounds on my scalp to be beautiful? This is what I internalized from society, and I dealt with a lot of comments about my ethnic appearance growing up.
I’m older now, and Instagram has really blown up. I scroll, and I see how the features that I was actually made fun of for are being celebrated on women who are not of color. This is really damaging because it makes me feel commodified and completely unacknowledged.
I am not a product.
I’m a human.
I’m a woman.
And when I hear on the news that Daunte Wright, yet another person who looks like me, has been murdered, I have a strange feeling of numbness, a dull ache, and I remember many of the experiences that I have had as a black American. I might decide to go on Instagram to take my attention off of the pain and fear, but then I scroll, and I see posts that have fetishized black culture, and it makes me feel so invisible and muted. I feel like a ghost, and I don’t understand why black beauty has become so devalued over time but simultaneously so indisposable to the mainstream’s profit.
I don’t want to be for-profit, and I don’t accept this. Black culture and black features are beautiful. I continue to think positively, and I work very hard on improving my self-image even though police brutality threatens my humanity every day. Yes, I want to be beautiful, but I want to be human first. However, I’m finding out more and more every day that these two are intertwined. The less beautiful you are deemed by society, the less society projects you as human.
And that’s why being included into societal ideas about beauty should be inherently associated human rights. Human rights are things that you should have access to just for being human. Humanity is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and I believe it is something that has been endowed to all people. How can I have the freedom to life and liberty, if at every turn, my appearance is not accepted into spaces except for the ones which allow me to make a profit for someone else? That’s not right, and it reminds me too much of something that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century. How come you need my physical features, my music, my art, and my food but you don’t care about my voice, my public safety, or my actual life? These elements are a cultural expression of my humanity, and I don’t want it to be cheapened.
Everyone is beautiful, and when I say black is beautiful or that black lives matter, I mean that the color black is visible too. We don’t need someone to shine a light on us. We need others to recognize that have always had our own beauty and light within.