Updated: Feb 15, 2022
The first time I realized I wasn’t white; I was sitting in my third-grade math class. My teacher called on me to answer the question, but I got in trouble … for not responding when he called me by the wrong name. The name of the only other colored girl in the class. The color of my skin has always been a source of pain; an area of my life that I’ve never fully had the answers to, an area that I’d rather forget. People who know me would probably say: “but Savannah your skin is gorgeous” to which I would reply “is it?” Because for as long as I can remember all I have ever wanted is to be Black.
Because I have one parent that is white and one parent that is Black, my skin is not light but it’s also not dark- making it something in between. This in turn has caused me to feel worried that I’m simply not Black enough. I wish I could say that I love my skin, but the truth is I’ve never been happy with it. Even up until a few weeks ago I was Googling “how to darken your skin”. This part of my life causes so much confusion because I do a lot of work for the Black community, but I still find myself questioning if I am in fact Black ‘enough’ to be doing these things/or speaking on these topics. In order to feel better about the color of my skin (something I’m only happy with in the summer) I have searched countless different ways to darken my skin as a way to reflect how I feel on the inside.
But who decides Blackness? This is a question I have asked myself many times. Is it based on genealogy? Or perhaps where your parents are from and their culture. Having heard umpteen times that I’m too white to be Black, yet, too Black to be white, it’s become apparent that my skin doesn’t have a place at the table. If I say I’m white, society will tell me I’m too dark. But if I say I’m Black society will also say I’m not dark enough. And sometimes it feels like there is no winning in the battle. While my peers had their own type of identity crisis’, mine was a bit different. I found myself straightening my hair and dressing like my white peers, regardless of whether the clothes matched my skin tone or if I fried my hair. Then there were days, where I made it clear that I was a young Black woman. But no matter what I did or said, I was always left feeling like the color of my skin wasn’t good enough.
As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but wonder if this struggle- this fight is all internal and I’m creating my own problems. From the outside I have thick, dark curly hair and big brown eyes with smooth dark skin. And on the inside? I’m a writer, and an advocate who hopes to one day lead the Black community- my community. Maybe there are no levels of ‘Blackness’, maybe it truly is just Black and white. I mean if society thinks that way about race, why can’t I?