American society valorizes the Eurocentric appearance, and unfortunately much of the black community has made it a significant part of the culture to alter their appearance to fit the Eurocentric perception of beauty. And with a culture as momentous as Hip-Hop that glorifies light skin and mixed race women, it is no wonder that a once brown-skinned woman like Lil’ Kim, who is deeply engaged in that culture, would give in and mutilate her features & soul to meet that European standard.
This indoctrinated sense of pulchritude is based on colonial propaganda that was designed to make minority groups feel inferior. For instance, from the moment a black or brown person is born, they are instilled with the European image. Characters on television: commercials, cartoons, t.v. shows–all denote ideas of beauty based on European standards. Furthermore, most blacks are taught from birth to worship and accept a white Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, which in itself inculcates them to view whites in a superior image: My God’s skin is white, and not dark like mine.
Still, the origins of blacks hating their dark skin is deeply rooted, and extends back to the slave era. White slave masters would exploit the differences between the slaves such as skin color in order to pit them against each other. Lighter skin slaves would perform less strenuous duties, typically within the slave master’s home and the darker slaves worked in fields.
Subsequent to the abolition of slavery, blacks had inherited & internalized self-hatred from the slave experience. Consequently, brown people became discriminatory within their own culture, implementing practices such as the brown paper bag test. The brown paper bag was used as a way to determine whether or not an individual could have certain privileges. The test was used in the 20th century in many social institutions such as African-American sororities, fraternities, and churches. In addition, Brown Paper Bags were used in multi-racial social events, at which only individuals with a skin color that is the same color or lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed. The term also refers to larger issues of class and social stratification within the African-American population.
Now fast-forward to the twenty-first century with the information era in full swing, social media has allowed for a clear insight of the extent in which the “Tommy Sotomayors” in black society have demonized black women. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that regardless of the topic posted on social media, some bitter black man will find a way to attribute the plight of blacks collectively to black women.
The way that many black men, and in many cases even women, view black women, especially those with darker skin, it’s understood why Lil’ Kim and women alike carry this level of burden in reference to their beauty:
All my life men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough—even the men I was dating. And I’d be like, ‘Well, why are you with me, then?’ It’s always been men putting me down just like my dad. To this day when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says
-Lil Kim during an interview in 2000 with Newsweek
Bottom line is that with society, especially those of the black race, exacerbating negative creed of the “Lil’ Kims” of the world, black women must look deep to recognize and appreciate their own beauty. I specify “look deep,” not suggesting that their beauty doesn’t conspicuously radiate on the surface, but because there are more odds for black women to accept the latter as their truth, oppose to deflecting the dense barriers of discernment that society has awaiting them.
“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.” – Carol Moseley-Braun
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