“I look like charcoal. I’m so dark. It’s awful.” ~ Overhearing a Hispanic co-worker vent to a White co-worker about how it’s terrible that her tan made her the complexion of a U-Haul box.
I literally do not know where to begin. The entire situation was just such a Molotov cocktail of ignorance and self-hate. And the shittiest part was that I couldn’t say anything because it would be the first time in history someone was hella angry while holding a Cliff bar (my co-workers were in the common area kitchen and we have dope snacks). Also, I’m Black and have an afro, so unless I have a look on my face that connotes this:
People at work think I feel like this all the time:
But seriously, Blarians, I was livid and also saddened for this ethnic woman that resembling anything close to brown complexion is a nightmare that would ruin her day. That her lightly-colored skin had the audacity to get darker after she had spent the weekend tanning it was simply inexcusable to her. I mean, getting mad that the result of tanning is somewhat brown skin is like me being upset that after I, a lactose intolerant person, finish doubling down on extra cheesy pizza, I end up chanting like Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do With It in hopes that will soothe my aching stomach (skip to 1:12):
I realize that my Hispanic co-worker’s issues are hers and that it’s not my responsibility to pull her aside at work and explain to her why venting to any person, let alone a White person, about how having colored skin is terrible is not only not a good idea, but that by doing such an ignorant thing turns the workplace into a lost episode of the sitcom A Different World. Except there’s no Kadeem Hardison or Lisa Bonet or Cree Summers here to school her in thirty minutes or less on why self-hate isn’t pretty, so there can be a happy ending. There’s just her, him, me, and real life. And since this real life, her self-hate and negative feelings about brown skin did not begin on Monday when she had this conversation. This has been a lifetime of feelings for her. I can’t fix that, but what I can do is give her some helpful tips, so she can be a more conscientious asshole in the future.
Tip #1: If you’re going to be an ig’nant ass at the office, then you need to do one of these:
and scan your surroundings before you say trifling shit. She saw me and made eye contact as I was walking to the elevator bank, which is a foot away from the kitchen where she was standing. She didn’t even do me the courtesy of a hushed tone! She was loud as hell like she was doing sound check at the county fair. Did this chick think that when sound travels, it bounces off my afro and lands into the garbage can next to her non-recyclable brains, thus preventing me from hearing her say dumb shit?
Tip #2: White people don’t like awkward conversations about race. They don’t. Like. It. AT. ALL. Especially at work. Matter of fact, they can’t handle convos about colors. Don’t believe me? I never had a White co-worker say to me, “Hey, can you hand me that Black coat?” EVER. They will not say “black coat” around me because, for the most part, Whites want to err on the side of political correctness so as not to offend. So unless the things on his list of to-dos during his 4pm snack break included: grab a can of Seltzer, contemplate eating some Swedish fish, and co-sign with this Hispanic lady like we’re going in on a bank loan that her having barely brown skin is terrible, he DID NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE.
Tip #3: This is less of a tip and more a newsflash. NEWSFLASH: No matter how many White friends you have or how many White men you date or much you straighten the natural curls out your hair, you are not White (Exhibit A: your Boriqua booty) and if you think for a second that White people consider you White because you hate yourself or because you put down being in possession of melanin as a way to fit in with your White co-workers, then you need to think again. No one will ever consider you White because you weren’t born that way. So moveon.org and find a new goal to conquer.
Look, I’m aware that this woman’s reaction is not a rare one by non-Black ethnic people. Historically speaking, not only being Black, but the possibility that you could be mistaken for a Black person is to be avoided at all costs in a lot of cultures. Simply put, no matter how “down” with Black people a lot of ethnic people are or claim to be, being considered Black is the worst thing that could happen to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a Jamaican person proclaim with in a how-dare-you-tone, “I’m not Black! I’m Jamaican.” Or if there is acceptance of Blackness and Black beauty in real life and/or in the media, it is typically of the lighter variety: the Beyonces, the Halle Berrys of the world. Hence, the hatred in her tone when she said she looks like “charcoal.”
Bitch, calm down. The sun gave you a temporary, light cinnamon dusting like the kind a chef on Top Chef puts on a dessert. And if that light dusting is devastating to you, then you must wonder how the hell someone like me gets out of bed every morning. How do I live when I have awful brown skin? I’m so…dark. Right? And my hair isn’t straight. What…is…wrong…with…me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing is wrong with me or women like me who have my complexion nor is there anything wrong with the women who have charcoal complexion. Dark-skinned women are BEAUTIFUL, too. Like so beautiful that I want to punch them in the face to make them ugly.
But since you are Alicia Silverstone Clueless, let me show you who looks like charcoal. GORGEOUS women like her:
What’s that? Why aren’t these women crying tears into their Lipton tea about their skin, you ask? Because they love themselves and work their beauty. So I’m telling you to stop hating yourself. Stop hating brown skin. Stop telling White people you hate brown skin. Given the history between White people and people of color in this country, it’s COMPLETELY fucked up and irresponsible to express that type of self-hate in a “don’t you agree that I look bad with brown skin?” Stop saying that brown skin is awful around Black people. A younger, less confident Blaria would’ve gone into a sadness spiral after hearing what you said. Luckily, I am who I am now and I know someone hating themselves or hating someone who looks like me doesn’t mean I have to hate me. Finally, stop fucking tanning if you can’t handle the fact that you will brown the fuck up.
And, #TeamBlaria, since I do yoga now, the DMX rage dances will have to cease. Sorry, guys. Oh, who I am kidding? I’ll just rage dance to the Des’ree You Gotta Be song they play in class. Won’t y’all join me?: