This morning, I was in Starbucks patiently waiting for my beverage, when an older Caucasian woman approached me, “You look really pretty today.” I smiled and said thank you, and she continued, “I have daughters and I know they always like when someone tells them they are pretty, so I just had to tell you that you look very pretty,” I smiled and again told her thank you and to have a good day.
Once inside my car, I began to think about how compliments are received so much differently when they come from someone who is Caucasian. As a woman of color, there’s this feeling like, “I’m acceptable now.” Yes, I know it sounds weird, but given the history of people of color and how we were—and more often than not, still—deemed ugly because of our skin tone and features, when someone of another race, specifically an older Caucasian compliments me, it’s like they have given a compliment not only to me, but to an entire race. As if our beauty is finally being recognized, although we have always been beautiful. And I say “older” because from my experience, there are a lot of more mature people who still have very old school mentalities when it comes to people of color, so a compliment from them is always shocking.
It’s crazy that there are so many beliefs that are ingrained in us from centuries ago, and all it takes is a compliment to remind us that people of color once were (and still are in Libya) being auctioned off, poked, prodded and looked at like zoo animals. Rihanna has done a tremendous job by making Fenty Beauty inclusive, and she has opened the world’s eyes to the many various shades of brown. Features like the size of our lips, noses and the curves of our bodies were once jokes, but are now standards of beauty that people are getting surgery in attempts to attain. And while I don’t think people of color should look to someone who is Caucasian for affirmation of who they are or how they look, there is still a small part of me that briefly says, “Oh, I’m that kind of pretty” when they compliment me.
Black women have always been beautiful, no matter how dark or how light their skin is; our melanin is magical and although a compliment from them may seem foreign, smile and know they are just now beginning to open their eyes to something we have recognized for years.
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