I was born with the wrong skin colour, I would think to myself.
When I was little, I would spend minutes – hours – staring at my skin trying to understand why I’m black; this strange unnatural colour. I didn’t understand how God could have made such a tragic mistake, how He could let His manufacturing angels clothe a white girl in a black frock, and a very black one indeed. They couldn’t even make me fair-skinned! They really messed up.
When I had my many engrossing daydreams, I never saw myself as black. I was always Mediterranean white with gloriously straight blonde hair but still with my dark brown eyes. And then, when I noticed that my imaginary self was not me, I would try my best, I willed myself to change her into a very dark black girl with stubborn woolly hair; but then the daydream would not be the same anymore. It’s ruined and I’m back to the real world. It doesn’t matter what I was dreaming about. As soon as I became aware that my head had painted a picture of a white me (it did go unnoticed most of the time), that would be the end of it.
“My dear don’t bleach”, I was constantly told by people who obviously ‘toned’ their skin to remove ‘dark blemishes’ and had no intention of stopping. I never knew if it was sincerity or sarcasm. “Duduyemi, black beauty”, my friends and relatives would call out in jest as they stare at my blackness. Many of them knew I hated it, but that made the jest a lot sweeter. However, even in the midst of a growing inferiority complex, I would still thank heavens that I’m not like those blacker than black Sudanese people I saw on cable. They reach the ultimate level of blackness.
At a very young age, I was made to understand how the world works: white chocolate is supreme, milk chocolate is satisfactorily delicious, and dark chocolate is bitter and uninviting. I also realised that racism isn’t solely an oyinbo issue but that we ‘blacks’ – well, Nigerians – discriminate against ourselves. This has nothing to do with tribes or ethnic groups. Wherever you’re from, no matter your ancestry, the lighter the better. Watching TV and seeing that the few black people on the screen were mostly Beyonce fair and more successful than the Kelly Rowland darker ones didn’t help at all, especially since I am way blacker than Kelly.
Then there are pictures; I just never show up in them. All you see is a row of large teeth surrounded by smiling white or fair-skinned people – even with flash. I hated – and still hate – having to deal with the embarrassed smile of friends in the UK telling me that I am not showing.
With these observations, I came to the conclusion that black is indeed ugly, unwanted and embarrassing.
[PS: Older me couldn’t care less about skin. However, I still don’t like taking loads of photos but not because of colour]
A similar post written by a guest blogger: I Am Not A Colour