Alana. LA, USA
I feel like a totally different person now. If you met me a year ago you would have met someone who was hiding in plain sight in every possible way. I was fully aware of it.
I’m unapologetically black. There was a time where I was praised only for my features that were more white growing up. My whole life people have told me things like how I’d look “so pretty with straight hair” and I hate it. I started to feel like people just wanted to wipe out my identity whenever they saw me. Like my blackness is standing in the way of me being pretty. One day I realised it’s not a compliment if it’s conditional.
I own who I am without guilt but also step more fully into how I feel on the inside which is that I’m a black woman, a woman of colour, so that I can stop hearing these comments and make people really realise that I have no interest in straightening my hair no interest in having lighter skin I have no interest in being any more of what they think I should be. Like ‘you’d look so great if you did X, Y, Z’ I’m like ‘No thank you I’m good.’
But I completely bought into that for years and years and years. I feel like when you come from a mixed background you kind of have to make the choice about how you choose to live.
I firmly believe that when you come from mixed parentage, especially when part of that is black, and you’re in America, you have to realise and recognise that you kind of can’t afford to just be in the middle and exercise your privilege of being light skinned and having light eyes and not having recognition of what that is.
There’s kind of always been a fascination with mixed people. We do have very interesting makeup genetically, and it’s visible in larger families with physical difference between siblings, but they’re still mixed into these vestiges of a desire to uplift the lighter ones. It comes from really deep roots, it comes from survival. Never because they thought whiteness was better. It was just if you can live, if you can survive. So I think we have a duty to them to say we lived, we survived, now we’re here and we step fully into who we are completely. Without fear.
A lot of my heritage is creole and it’s like creole families encourage their children to pass for white out of survival but that culture still perpetuates that idea and they don’t really know where it comes from even. And it comes from a terrible time where it was safer to be a white person if you could be. And now that things are different I think it’s really important to step fully into that identity.
I have many tattoos but my favourite is one of the characters out of my favourite book, Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton. It had a really big impact on me because I’d never seen dark-skinned princesses and mermaids with afros before.he really stood out to me. She is a very proud and headstrong woman who learns not to judge others. I just loved her demeanour and she was so striking to me. I love the book in its entirety.
My African genes are strong and they show up in my face and my skin and now I own that otherwise it’s doing a disservice to my foremothers and forefathers who suffered because they were black. I have a duty to them to say we lived, we survived, now. I’m here and I’m going to step fully into who I am as a black person. Without fear.