“Self-love is the belief you hold that you are a valuable and worthy person. An example of self-love is when you have a positive view of yourself and are confident in yourself and your place in the world.” Your Dictionary
I don’t know many people of color who are confident and or happy with their place in the world. It can feel as though you have no place in the world. This makes me ask the question,”How can someone be confident in their self and their place in the world when the world’s view on people that look like them is overwhelmingly negative?”
If the general population view people with your skin color as thugs, gangsters, ghetto, or as welfare recipients (I could go on), how can you view yourself as anything different? How can you believe that you’re valuable and worthy when you’re conditioned to hate yourself based on these race-based negative stereotypes.
I have to wonder, where is my place in this world? Is it where “they” (the media) tell me it should be…worthless to society, in prison, or dead?? How can I have self-worth when, as a general rule, based on my skin color I’m seen as having no worth to others?
If you’ve you’ve never had your worth judged based on your skin color, you might be surprised how many people can identify with those questions, even at a very young age those questions are there. As many you know, I have a son who’s in a special education class at school. This will give context to the following story. I am in constant contact with his in-classroom therapist. We were discussing how she, as a young white woman in a class that is 90% African American boys, is sometimes unsure how to respond to some of the issues that arise in class.. One student was having a hard time with class work. The teacher asked the therapist to try to see what the underlying issue was. The therapist had a session with the young man, where he asked her why did he need to try? He stated that no one cared about little black boys, that he would only end up dead or in jail. Another child said that he wished his skin was lighter, that he doesn’t like being dark. All this from ten-year-old children.
Self-hate is something that’s experienced by many people of color. Unfortunately, societal norms in so many different ways tell us that dark is evil or bad, that coarse curly hair is unprofessional, and that being “different” produces negative reactions from those who consider themselves normal.
An overwhelming number of people put themselves through what some would consider torture to change how others see them. The skin bleaching epidemic in Africa, the cosmetic surgery here in the US. This internalized form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realize it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others.
Light skin and features of Caucasians are established as hallmarks of beauty and status, and it’s such an intrinsic part of the global system of capitalism today that it is taken for granted: white – or light – is right. If you don’t believe me try googling professional women hairstyles, then google unprofessional hair styles. Did you notice anything? I’m sure you saw the difference in the color and hair texture of the women.
How do we change this damaging cycle? How do we reverse the cycle of self-hate and learn to love the skin we’re in?
- Admit that there’s an epidemic of color prejudice in our society. Recognise that those who created the dominant cultural ideas we’ve internalized did so for their benefit, not ours. Understand that the psychological conflict that this internalization causes is self-destructive. Self-hatred continues the cycle of self-degradation, and we can’t teach our kids about their self-worth if our own sense of self is distorted through a white lens.
- Educate yourself, research the history of why you and others think this way. Then research the power and beauty that makes you, you. Until we re-educate ourselves, we will remain alienated from ourselves, and, in a sense, live contradictory lives: being black, being seen as black, yet hating black.
- Teach others what you have learned. Tell someone every day they’re beautiful and tell them why. This positive affirmation of their beauty can carry them throughout their life and serve as a shield of resistance against the general negativity they encounter as a result of their ebony hue.
I understand that these strongly entrenched ideas take time, and considerable effort, to weed out. However, we need to take the first step, admit that there is a problem. We’re all unique and that is what makes us beautifully interesting. As Gandhi said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”.
In order to change, you have to first love yourself, so that you can love others. Once you truly love yourself, that love radiates and becomes a powerful tool that you can use to help others love the skin that they are in!