Who am I?
I’m Moniqué, the product of a marriage between my Vincentian Mum and my Jamaican Dad, but “Coolie Gyal” “Red skin” and “Chocolate drop”, are some of the terms I’ve been addressed with during my 28 years of life.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Upshire, Essex. We were the only black family to reside on my road.
My parents both worked and I was sent to a childminder.
One day, one of the other children that my childminder collected from school, innocently told my mum that whenever I entered the playground with the minder, everyone would refer to me and call me “Chocolate Drop”.
“Chocolate Drop” – the very first of many derogatory nicknames I would come to experience and witness.
Another experience that I can recall growing up happened during a nightly bath after playgroup. I had taken the soap and began scrubbing my forearm vigorously, to which my Mum asked to what I was doing, to which I answered, “My skin’s dirty Mummy”.
I was in actual fact referring to my beautiful black skin tone. I wanted to be white.
When I think of these two experiences in particular, I am deeply saddened.
This is because I strongly believe that were we still living in a predominantly all white area, I’m certain, I would have grown to hate myself and wanted to change who I was and where I came from.
Once it was time for me to go to School, I experienced the complete opposite feeling to what I did when I was in my community. My school was a private, all black school and the only white child that attended, attended because his mum worked in the office.
I don’t recall during this time experiencing any form of shadeism, until I attended my second primary school.
This is where for the 1st time in my academic life, I co-existed with people of different races and where I felt most comfortable for the 1st time in my life.
My school was based in Walthamstow, which has a big Asian community.
I didn’t feel ostracised because of my race and the colour of my skin, but it was here that I experienced my first hand engagement with Shadeism.
Because I have light skin, light brown eyes and my hair wasn’t as coarse as the other black girls I mingled with, it was here that I “learnt” that the lighter the skin, the better. Or so they would have you believe.
I was caught between a rock and a hard place. Light skin was glorified and it made me feel uncomfortable. Alongside being the slimmest of all my friends too, this made me feel worse, as these were the two main factors that fellow children would glorify and praise.
My friends that were dark skinned, were teased (but it was always classed as a joke – side-eye), and never a day would go by on the playground that a cussing match wouldn’t include the following; “Go back to Africa” “African Zulu Warrior” and “You’re a Bobo” slurs.
Even then I hated what I would later learn was in fact entitled “Light Skin” vs “Dark Skin”, and often ended up in these quarrels backing up my friends who were too scared and humiliated to fight back.
As I got older, I grew more aware of shadeism around me.
At college, Mixed race and light skin black girls were highly glorified, because after all the lighter the better.
I resent the term “Light skin”.
I side-eye those that use it to refer to anyone, including themselves as it, and those that dare acknowledge me with it are given a little monologue and history lesson on the topic of shadeism. Willie Lynch’s prophecy is still prevalent today.
Funnily enough, although I went from not loving my beautiful black skin, to then wishing I was darker, I always wished my hair was different.
Over the last couple years, I’ve contemplated going back to being natural, having begged my mum from the age of 8 to have it straightened in the first place.
As far as I was concerned, straight hair was pretty and beautiful, and even if my Mum hot combed mine for a special occasion, I knew that it would “puff” up if I ran around and acted like a normal child and had fun.
I loved that my hair moved when she twisted it up and especially when she added beads to the ends, *snaps fingers, lol*.
I remember the feeling when I had my first relaxer around 11.
My hair was long, “easy” to comb and tangle free.
I was grinning from ear to ear.
The media had me blind, looking at the limited black people that they did have on TV, through rose tinted glasses.
All long locked, with flowing weaves (this I learnt later) and mainly light skinned of course.
I remember once when I worked in a Bank, and it was based in Hackney. I was working on the welcome desk and helping customers use the ATM machine.
Now, for those that don’t know, Hackney has a very big African and Caribbean community, and my branch was situated in the heart of Dalston.
One afternoon, two Jamaican women came in I welcomed them and offered to help them use the new machine we had installed.
Now, I am regularly told “I don’t sound black” to which I have to educate the culprit with words. These two women decide to have a conversation, ABOUT ME, in Patois.
Obviously they thought I couldn’t understand, so I just looked at them once they’d finished and shook my head. The look alone should have indicated, I understood EVERYTHING you just said.
According to them I thought I was too nice, with my coolie hair and light skin.
What they couldn’t have known was Coolie, is a derogatory word and not one that I would use positively, let alone describe myself as and 2nd my dad is dark skinned and it just happens that we don’t have any control over how our genes are distributed.
So there you have it.
I just wanted to share my perspective as to how I myself as a “Light skinned” black and newly natural girl have experienced shadeism and colourism.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a damn shame that Willie Lynch’s prophecy is still prevalent today. I can put my hand on my heart and honestly say that although my family made me feel beautiful, my parents taught me about my history and even went as far as to make sure that the dolls I had resembled me, I still questioned at a young age who I was, but I cannot make it any clearer as to how much I love myself today.
Regardless of what shade you are, and where you come from, yes we are all beautiful, but to my fellow ladies of colour, regardless of your shade, rock your crown with pride and represent the beautiful shade that is black.
I am proud of my heritage and history.
And alongside being proud of being black and beautiful, I am proud of being Moniqué.
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