It’s not often that a video on Twitter can hit you in the chest, but here we are.
On Friday (March 6), while scrolling through my feed, I kept seeing a beautiful dark-skinned little Black girl pop up. While I wanted it to be one of those inspirational videos bursting with #BlackGirlMagic where the little girl blows us away with her amazing voice, makes us laugh or lets the world know that she is beyond special, sadly, this was the exact opposite.
In a viral tweet posted by @_FemGod, the little girl tells a woman, who I assume is her mother, that she’s “ugly.”
“I’m still ugly,” the little girl says as her mother combs her hair.
Gasping, the mother sternly says, “Don’t say that! Don’t say that! Don’t say that! You are so pretty.! When you look at yourself you’re supposed to say “Oh I am so pretty. You are so pretty!”
She grabs the baby’s face, adding, “You got the prettiest little dimples, You are too cute!”
The little girl faces winces and she begins to wail. As the mother cradles her, she reminds her daughter of everything about her that’s so amazing.
“You have this beautiful chocolate skin, like you are just such so gorgeous, you got these dimples. Remember what I told you? How many people got two dimples? Nobody! Let me see you smile. Let me see you smile. You got two dimples!”
The little girl slowly comes around, showing her mama her teeth.
“Look at those pretty white teeth! No, you not gonna cry, you are a beautiful little girl and you are pretty and you are the prettiest girl in your class!”
Take a look:
Honestly, it’s heartbreaking to watch.
While this little girl never communicates why she believes she’s ugly, I think it’s safe to assume that colorism is at play. Yes, it’s hard to imagine someone so young has already developed this distorted and loathing sense of self, but this right here is a reminder that our children are watching everything we do, say and the images we have around them that explicitly or implicitly tell them that they are not enough and that there is something inherently wrong with their dark skin, 4C hair and visibly Black features.
Watching this reminded me of my early days of teaching.
A lifetime ago when I first graduated from college I worked at one of the most ratched daycares in the south suburbs of Chicago. One of our teachers Tanya, who I could not stand, would always come into my classroom to coddle and sometimes pull out of class this little girl Lauren. Apparently, she used to babysit Lauren, but her obsession with this little went beyond that. The 2-year-old was extremely light-skinned with curly hair and the teacher never skipped a beat to remind anyone within earshot of this child’s beauty.
But one day, I had had it with her bullying of me and her barging in and snatching this child out of my class. I finally mustered up the guts to say to her, “You know you keep taking her out of here and she’s missing her lesson. Low key, she is way behind the other kids. She barely knows her colors. She needs to stay here and learn.”
That dumb self-hating heifer looked at me and said in front of my whole class, “She doesn’t need to learn. She’s light-skinned and has good hair. She’ll always be fine. Someone will always take care of her.”
With that, she grabbed that little girl and stormed out looking triumphant.
Of course, I was flabbergasted and beyond pissed that a teacher, of all people, could fix her lips to say such a horrible thing. I get the Midwest has its own colorstruck rules, but since when was being light-skinned an accomplishment or a golden ticket to not have to learn? But I was really concerned about the other children in my class, especially the dark-skinned girls who heard what she said. Yeah, they were only 2-years-old, but it’s clear that these ignorant messages being put out into the world are shaping how our babies see themselves, even if they just learned their ABCs. But that’s just how pervasive and damaging colorism can be for our children who are just beginning to shape how they see themselves and how the world sees them in return.
It’s not surprising that this video, with over 4 million views, brought about such a raw and visceral response on social media. For many sistas it was a flashback in time, bringing them back to their own childhood when they harbored the same self-hate (and maybe still do to this day). It’s a constant reminder that while things are getting better, it’s not happening fast enough.
“So many of yal are quoting this saying “relatable” or “this was me” and that’s also heartbreaking. Yal are beautiful. WE are beautiful. Let us allow NO ONE to tell us otherwise. I charge us to reach out and remind each other of this more often. We gotta love us frfr,” @_FemGod wrote after seeing all of the responses.
Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t lying when she said that “colorism is the daughter of racism.” While it definitely was created by white people, it’s clear that we’re the ones who continue to perpetuate this idea that “lighter is better” in every facet of our lives. So it’s up to us to change it.
I guess if anything “good” can come out of this tear-jerking and jarring video is that if we want for there to never be another girl like this crying about being “ugly” this on us. That, and we need more parents like this mother making sure that we are the loudest and most affirming authoritative voices in our babies’ ears, drowning out that piercing noise that tells dark-skinned folks that they aren’t enough. Like my former colleague, we also have to unlearn a lot of what we’ve been taught and be hyper-aware of how we praise light-skinned folks for being nothing more than light-skinned.
Self-hate is a helluva drug and we are in desperate need of an intervention.
In the end, we just have to do better and continue to love on our babies even harder and remind them they are so beautiful, so worthy and most importantly, magic.
Here’s a look at what Black Twitter had to say: