This past summer, one hashtag was all over Instagram: #melanin. #melaninpoppin #melaningoddess #melaningoals #melaninonfleek, it was everywhere. Everyone was posting these gorgeous pictures of dark-skinned girls, praising their skin.
Most people probably didn’t think much of it, but this really stuck out to me as it was a complete 180 from what my experience was growing up.
All of the black celebrities I remember being called “beautiful” were light skinned. Being close to white was what equated to beauty. And it didn’t seem to cross over gender lines; black men could be any shade and still be considered attractive, from Michael Ealy to Idris Elba.
So why not women?
I will never forget the conversation I heard one day while I was at an amusement park with some girls. For context, all of us were “light-skinned”. Most of them I had just met. It was a hot day in the summer, and we were putting on sunscreen.
They were saying that their reasoning for wearing sunscreen was so the sun wouldn’t make them darker. They talked about how much they hated when their skin tanned. I remember asking what was wrong with having darker skin. I’d personally always liked the way my skin looked in the summer, it had a different glow to it. But they kept joking about how “blackening” was the worst thing in the world. ‘How could you say that?’ I remember thinking. How could we as black girls have an opinion like that about our own people?
I noticed this same thinking when I first got on Instagram back in 2013. I scrolled through photo after photo of black girls brightening up their pictures so much that they were almost unrecognizable, taking selfies with lamps shining in their face to try and wash out their skin, and using filters that could change the way their skin looked. Anything to make their skin lighter, to look more attractive, to get more likes.
I never understood it. Black skin is so unique. I love that black girls can come in every shade, and I want that to be celebrated instead of every black girl trying to fit into one skin tone. Dark skin is so stunning. Why someone blessed enough to have it would try and hide it in a photo I couldn’t comprehend.
I think about this so much because of the daughter I hope to have one day. Will she grow up in a society where she’s told her skin makes her less attractive? Where girls are contouring their noses to make them look smaller? Will she want to perm her hair to permanently get rid of her thick curls? Will the images that she is surrounded by allow her to be comfortable with who she is?
I can’t answer that, and it makes me uneasy.
You might be asking why. Dark skin is finally being celebrated. On top of that, girls want to have big lips, and curvy body types are in. It’s a good time to be a black female, right?
Unfortunately, we can’t look at it this way. In a few years, we could be on the opposite end of the spectrum again. Female features seem to go in and out of style like clothing. I have no idea what will be “in” while my daughter is growing up. I can tell her that she is beautiful, but I can’t control what she sees or what she hears.
We have to make sure we keep putting out the right message.
When I saw the melanin hashtags this summer, I saw a pride in our skin that I had never seen before. All of these females were posting pictures celebrating themselves. I’m so excited to see this change, but we can’t become complacent and stop encouraging and lifting up our black females. We have to make sure it continues to move forward and that young girls will grow up loving the skin that they’re born with.