Letters to My Younger Self is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger ourselves.
Dear 7-year-old me,
Christie or Teresa? Teresa or Christie?
Oh, darling Jacie. I can see the fury of internal turmoil in your furrowed eyebrows. The uncertainty increases the longer you stare at their perfectly painted faces in their pink, plastic packaging.
The decision is really already made. Mom always buys Christie. You know this. She’s the doll that best represents you. You will later learn how important representation is.
She matches the paintings that line your bedroom wall, displaying black women with their daughters and young black girls of varying shades playing together. You’ll later thank Mom for teaching you to value your blackness.
At this moment, as your eyes shift between the two Barbie dolls smiling from their shelf in Toys”R”Us, you fight yourself for wanting to pick Teresa. She’s not as light as Barbie, but she’s also not as dark as Christie and that was what some in society deemed beautiful for a black girl. That’s what you saw as beautiful for a black girl.
She’s also not as dark as Christie and that was what some in society deemed beautiful for a black girl.
The thing is, you never had a problem with loving your blackness, loving your shade of black was your internal war.
Loved ones will try to equip you with the proper armor, but you will still face colorism throughout your journey to adulthood. You’ll see your lighter-skinned colleagues received a bit more grace than you despite showing the same promise. You will settle for being the “cool friend” and watch as your crushes pass over you to shoot their shot at your “exotic-looking” black friend. You will even wonder how rich you could be if you were given a dollar for every time someone told you, “You’re pretty for a black girl.”
You will still face colorism throughout your journey to adulthood.
I wish I could tell you that you won’t internalize these biases. I mean, you’ll see some representation in mainstream media, but because of your experiences, you will also see the subtle slights and prejudices in the cinematic portrayals of lighter-skinned black women being desirable and darker-skinned black women being unfavorable (aka the Beyoncé vs. Kelly Rowland conversations). You will cry—a lot—and you will feel inferior.
Chin up, though, because I can tell you that you are beautiful, and your skin is beautiful. You know what else is beautiful? That despite the years’ long internal war you embark on, you do teach yourself to see and appreciate the beauty in other women, regardless of shade, without diminishing your own. You learn that the amount of melanin someone possesses is not inversely proportional to beauty. It will take time, but you do fall in love with yourself.
You learn that the amount of melanin someone possesses is not inversely proportional to beauty.
So yes. You are right. Teresa is very beautiful, but so is Christie. Don’t pick her because Mom wants you to or even because her painted on skin looks like you. Pick her because she’s beautiful. Just like you.