Don't Mellow My Melanin
For the longest time, I was ashamed to be black. In fact, I used to hate myself for it. It was so hard growing up in a mainstream white society—I barely ever found things that seemed relatable to me. I used to hate the fact that my hair was so kinky, wild, and untamed. Or that I had to use twice as much as sunscreen on my skin, because instead of getting that summertime “tan,” I was really just over baked.
I grew up watching classically Westernized shows and movies (which I loved, don't get me wrong), but at the same time, I never truly related. I sometimes look back on some of these shows—or just any shows in general—and there's such a small percentage that actually cast young black people in the main cast. I never saw myself in them. I never had that character I could channel when I would escape into my sugar-infused imagination with my friends when I was little.
I felt misplaced. And from conversations I've had with my black friends and my family, I know we all feel the same way. Black, whether it’s simply the color or as a label for dark-skinned people, has always carried negative connotations: Witchcraft, death, evil, sadness, depression, crime, filth, murder...the list goes on and on. Because of this, anything black just oozed bad news.
Whenever you hear of a robbery, killing, or shooting, the immediate thought is “a black person did it.” People think we're too loud, too wild, and too crazy. They curse us for our voluptuous bodies and fashion choices, yet reap it like sheep to use as trends, appropriating what our black stands for. The media allows our beauty, intellect, and culture to drown.
My mom, a brilliant black woman with a strong mind and soul, grew up in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. She was top of her class; because of this, she had the opportunity to study in Australia on a full scholarship. Yet she was an outcast, made to feel inferior because being a black women from Zimbabwe wasn't an achievement, it was a charity case. She was never seen as an intellectual equal.
After my mom told me her stories, I felt inspired, yet angry all at once. I’m inspired by the fact that she overcame her poor background to give me and my brother an incredible life. But I’m angry at the fact that such hatred exists based on skin color.
Today I'm able to utilize technology, sleep in a bed, and go to one of the best schools in my country, all because my parents made so much of themselves in a world where odds were against them.
Our heritage and roles in our communities have been uplifted and recognized as equal. We have black people in our justice systems, governments, and educational departments still fighting for our place in this world.
Yet sometimes it still feels like it’s not enough. We're fighting for our fallen brothers and sisters. #BlackLivesMatter has become our pillar of strength and refuge in a world that's still trying to tear us down. Our “too” loud voices have become the inequitable balance to cause change and to fight.
I live in a society where one race is said to be more beautiful than the next. People tell young African girls that they’re “pretty for a black girl,” and that’s all. They try to always find ways to make us shiver and crumble and whip us back into the cages they kept us in. But we won’t let them. Stop trying to mellow my melanin.
My black life matters because I am a part of this revolutionary march that stands for equality.
My black life will forever and always matter.
By Thandeka Nkomo, 18