Someone once told me that if I had green eyes, I would be more beautiful.
I was shocked and puzzled by his comment. Aren’t brown eyes beautiful? Aren’t they as beautiful as green eyes?
But everyday, I see this pursuit of white beauty. I meet countless black women with store bought eyes, ranging from hazel, to grey, to green and to blue.
I turn on the television and I am inundated with high-profile black women who look like whitewashed versions of their former selves.
Now, I don’t have an issue with anyone wanting to change their appearance and try a new look. But often times these women undergo radical changes to their appearance. Suddenly they were ‘born’ with green or hazel eyes. Blonde appears to be their go-to hair colour. Their skin looks shades lighter than when they first started their careers and their noses become more hooked and narrow than flat. To name a few: Beyonce, Keri Hilson, Rihanna, Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj and the list goes on. At times the transformation is almost freakish, unnatural and alien-like.
Toni Morrison, in her novel, The Bluest Eye, shows how society and the family impact a black woman’s view of beauty and her belief that if she possesses a white feature that she will be seen as beautiful. In the afterword of the novel Morrison states: “Implicit in her desire [for blue eyes] was racial self-loathing. And twenty years later I was still wondering about how one learns that. ”
Too often I hear the mantras: “black is beautiful” and “black pride.” But when we alter our appearance so drastically that we erase our blackness, how can we say that we are black, proud and beautiful?
Morrison goes on to pose a powerful and still relevant question:
“ Who told her that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale?”
The answers to these questions are varied and at times painful. They may begin with a stray remark a mother makes about her child’s hair. Or that we do not see ourselves on the television or in magazines or in Disney fairy tales How everyone fusses over the girl or woman with the European features. Maybe at school we are bullied because of our appearance. Or we are told that our success in a certain industry requires a certain look .
The overarching message we receive is that black women are deficient in beauty. And in our quest to possess a beauty that is not our own, we twist and pull, sculpt and carve, until we are neither black nor white,but distorted versions of the furthest thing from ourselves. Sadly, we fail to enjoy and experience our own beauty.