Light Skinned & "Nappy": What Happened To My Self-Esteem When People Stopped Asking What I Was Mixed With

I've always been proud to be a Black woman even though everyone thinks I'm mixed. 

I remember raising hell as a child when my 3rd grade teacher marked my ethnicity as "biracial" on my End Of Grade test when I originally wrote "African American". There is nothing wrong with being biracial or mixed, I just don't identify as such. Both of my parents are Black, their parents are Black and I've never seen any white people at my family reunions that weren't married into the family. Not a good or bad thing, just stating facts.
Some of my family with cousin Byron subbing in instead of my dad
My dad
I'm sure that it goes without saying, but people have always mistaken me for being mixed, especially when I had relaxed hair. My relaxed hair was never really long, but I guess the straightness of my hair back then along with the lightness of my skin, my personality and proper diction unfortunately made people believe that I couldn't be Black. I use to think that the main component of people seeing me as biracial or something other than Black is because I have light skin. I've gotten Dominican (which some people don't consider to be Black), Puerto Rican and of course, biracial with Black and White. People would have so much fun trying to figure out what I was and then would be dumbfounded when I told them that both of my parents are Black. My personal favorite response was "Poor baby. Somebody done lied to you."
In my senior year of high school

Growing up, I used to hate having light skin. I hated the nicknames my Black classmates would give me and I hated the "you can't relate to us" looks I'd get when I'd chime in on Black issues. The self-esteem of my young, adolescent self would go down every time someone would interrupt me and ask what I was mixed with.

I know that I might sound like a "whining light skinned girl" right now, but I'm just telling my story.
I've always been pretty eccentric
Flash forward a few years to college, I decided to stop relaxing my hair and did a big chop, cutting my hair down to a close cut. I remember when my mom first saw my big chop, she wanted to sit me down on a shrink's couch because she thought I was crazy. Growing up, I had always wanted the long, curly hair that usually came with being a mixed girl since people always assumed that I was mixed anyways; however, I felt so free right after I cut off all of my hair.

The feeling of being "free" was unfortunately quickly replaced with the feeling of being undesirable.

I remember distinctly going to a party in college after work. Usually when I'd go to parties, I'd get hit on by a guy or too, usually a white guy just because of the demographic of the parties I was invited to. This party, however, was different. I got dressed up and even put on makeup, something that I rarely do. I spent hours on YouTube trying to nail the Eco-styler gel finger curl and I was feeling very confident with myself. That confidence dropped as the type of white boys that would usually flirt with me instead patted my hair like a dog and referred to me as someone with "sponge hair".  I strayed away from being referred to as "that mixed girl" and quickly became "that Black girl"soon after I went natural.  It was something that I always wanted, yet for some reason, it didn't feel right.
It didn't feel right because of the reason people would say that they knew I "had to be Black". One of my classmates saw a picture of my parents on Facebook and they were so excited to tell me that they knew I "had to be Black" because of my "nappy Black-people hair and big Black-people nose". I realize that people of different ethnic backgrounds usually have distinct physical features and I think that it is beautiful. Unfortunately, others do not and they make it very apparent.

So what happened to my self-esteem when people stopped asking what I was mixed with? It transformed. It took a while, but I learned to stop valuing myself based on whether or not other people appreciated my beauty and saw me for who I really am. When people see me, they see what they want to see: a mixed girl, a black girl, a light skinned and nappy girl. When I look in the mirror, I see an intelligent woman. A leader. A future doctor. I also see beautiful light brown skin that is riddled with acne marks from my teen years, uniquely beautiful hair that some people may call "nappy" and a big, flat nose that I have learned to love. Being Black and having features typical of Black people does not make someone inferior. Black is absolutely stunning.

In the end, it doesn't matter who people think you are as long as you know who you are and are comfortable with it.

About Us

Quirky, Brown Love is a media outlet for quirky, brown millennials. EST 2014.

Email Bryanda Law, Editor-in-Chief