At the time I didn’t see how my treatment at school affected my external image until after leaving secondary school. When I first started secondary school my hair was always in cainrows. I had long hair, which reached my hip, and my mother never let me wear it out. As I got older the other girls would laugh at how my hair would start looking messy as the weeks went on. All those fly away curls trying to pop out. So I persuaded my mother to let me wear my hair natural without the cainrows.
That wasn’t any good either. Too much hair and the only products I knew about were like Next Jam – which never worked in my hair properly. So I started wearing my hair curly. I can still remember what the Sun Silk bottle looked like, ha! Regardless, I used to go to school with my hair still dripping wet (I was always late and in a rush). I remember one day, as we were queuing up to go into the building, I must have twisted my head really quickly which lead to a girl shouting at me for getting her wet. It wasn’t good enough that she had embarrassed me, but then proceeded in telling everyone that I thought I was better than everyone else because I was lighter and my hair was curly. I literally remember trying to shrug it off like it didn’t matter, but it really did.
I went to a predominantly black school within London. My friends were all white. That means in the whole year group there were like 4 of them. I had one other friend who was black also, but she didn’t fit in much either because we both didn’t speak like the other black girls. Far too white for them. So I already was the outcast because I didn’t fit in with the other girls. My white friends thought my hair was bushy and the black girls thought it was ugly. I was incredibly skinny also and had no boobs. I also started periods really late so I was suffering a lot from a lack of identity. It was at that poith that I convinced my mother that I wanted to relax my hair. She suggested perming it, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to look like me. I needed straight hair like the black girls with weave or like my white friends because no one had hair like mine!
So I had straight relaxed hair. And it worked for a while. I fitted in for a while. And then it got shorter, and shorter and shorter… Then I had to cut it all off into a pixie crop because it was awful. My hair, that was once to my hips, was now above shoulder length because I cared too much what these girls, who weren’t even my friends, thought.
It wasn’t just at school this happened though. I went ice skating with my white friends and we had a group of black girls, who had been sitting at the back of the bus, approach us. They asked us “what ends are you from?” When I say us really I mean me.
One of her friends even said, “Why are you talking to just her?”
To which the girl replied “I don’t care about her white friends” and then threw the rubbish that was on the floor at us (which hit my friend).
And if you thought it was only girls, you’re mistaken. I went to Camden once, again with my friends who were white. We had two black boys approach us. When I wouldn’t speak to them they shouted, “Stupid lightie” and threw something else at me (which hit my friend, again. She’s an impressive bodyguard haha).
You would think it would have stopped there. That we exist now in an age where everyone is equal. But no. Now there’s team light skin vs dark skin. I’ve heard boys I’ve dated say to others that I’m too dark because I’m a “dark light skin girl…” HOOOWWWW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE!? Or they don’t like me because sometimes I wear weave. Being branded as “the light skin girl or lightie,” as if that now replaces a name. It just gets to a point where it’s sad.
No amount of melanin in your skin should determine your beauty, and it’s sad that celebrities like Beyonce or Rihanna endorse this behaviour when appearing in adverts or videos looking 2 shades lighter than they did last month. No matter what your skin tone is. You are beautiful. And I love the natural hair movement because it’s women working with what they were given; not trying to be something that society thinks they should be.