What a Black Girl Wants

Pretty or Just Pretty for a Black Girl: Why We're Tired

Duke Unfiltered | Karla Colley | February 7, 2016

  • Copied

“Normally, I don’t find dark girls attractive, but I find you attractive as fuck.”

Regardless of whether you’re the girl happily dancing in the cage every week or the friend that somehow always reluctantly gets dragged along, we have all been there at one point or another, or maybe every weekend – Saturday Night Shooters. Midnight strikes, and you find yourself at what my friends ever so eloquently refer to as the “place of sins and regrets.” Dripping in sweat, probably a mix of yours and your favorite strangers rubbing up against you, you hype up your friend on the bar dancing to Trap Queen while trying to reassure your other friend that the DJ will play Migos soon so she can dab. It’s lit *insert fire emoji here*

“You know, I’m not usually into black girls, but DAMN, you’re fine.”

Now, from the couples grinding against the foggy mirrors to the “what could have been” missed connections, we all know Shooters has a bit of a reputation for being a hookup matchmaker. So like clockwork, a guy approaches you, throws a compliment your way, and maybe even offers to buy you a drink. Let us be clear, I am a fan of compliments, who isn’t? This one though, caught my attention, and whether I was feeling the guy or not immediately became irrelevant. Black girls, particularly those of darker complexions, have heard this statement and the many sizes, shapes, and colors it comes in, one too many times. So, I think it is time we finally have that long needed discussion about why these statements are incredibly problematic and so unflattering.

“You’re gorgeous for a black girl, so exotic looking.”

Some of you’re probably rolling your eyes, mumbling about what type of girl complains about a “compliment” and adding it to your long list of reasons why women can never be satisfied. Maybe you have even added it to your list about why specifically black women are “sassy” and “always angry.” I understand that it might be difficult for non-people of color to genuinely understand why statements like these are not flattering compliments and why they should not be considered as such.

“Essentially, the people giving out these “compliments” are implying that black or dark girls on a whole are typically unattractive and that the women whom they are attracted to are only beautiful because they have somehow managed to beat those odds of ugliness that come with having darker skin.”

Their words perpetuate the idea that we have somehow managed to be beautiful in spite of our dark skin as if it is a burden or a downfall. As something that I have been on the receiving end of and a witness to more times than I would like to count, it has made me question what it means to be beautiful in our Western world and how these standards have impacted women of color (WOC).

“I’ve never been with a black chick before, but I’ve always wanted to.”

I have talked to girlfriends of other races about this, and they were amazed that this was even a problem for black girls. Know why? It simply does not happen to them – not ever. There is no such thing as “You’re so attractive for a white girl.” No one says that. If those words were ever to be uttered, the person would be looked at with complete confusion because that is how bizarre and rare the situation is. When you’re considered the standard and the model of beauty, there needs to be no mention of your race because you’re the benchmark by which everything and everyone else is measured. Yes, we only feel the need to distinguish and explicitly mention race for those that we feel fall outside of this carefully packaged box. This clear distinction in how men and even other women compliment different groups of women says quite a bit about our society and how we view dark skin women.

“You’re different from all the other black girls I’ve known.”

Let’s not kid ourselves here, this problem goes much farther than these one-size fits all, backhanded “compliments” that we hear around Duke and pretty much everywhere else. We live in a society that is dominated by Eurocentric beauty standards. We also live in a world where one mention of the word diversity gets denounced with twisted cries of discrimination and anti-whiteness. Just take a glimpse at billboards, beauty campaigns, your local movie screen, and the runways. The world is consumed by the image of the fair, petite blonde woman with her thin nose and pursed lips. While black women and other WOC have slowly integrated themselves into mainstream media, it is mostly the women that fit this light skinned with small facial features archetype that go on to receive worldwide acclaim, like Beyoncé and Rihanna. Every now and then, we might see a dark skinned beauty capture the world’s attention, à la Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, or Serena Williams; however, one only has to do a quick scroll through their Facebook feed or a Google search to see the horrendous, degrading names Nyong’o was called when People Magazine named her 2014’s “Most Beautiful Woman” or the million and one ways Serena Williams has been compared to a beastly animal in her years of commanding the court.

“I can rock with you because you’re like chocolate, but not like too dark ya know?”

To be fair, this constant questioning of black beauty is not a problem unique to non-people of color. Many black men, including dark skin black men, happily endorse this idea that most dark skin women are ugly. I’ve listened to black guys talk about how they won’t even spare a dark girl a glance unless “she’s bad as fuck.” Their words, not mine. If she does not have a fat ass, a nice rack, a small nose, and look like the walking form of melting chocolate, then they’re clearly wasting their time. Then compare that to their standards for other races of women, which are a lot less detailed and less specific. It is as if there are two distinct categories: pretty girls and pretty black girls. It is actually quite strange if you really think about it. As a black girl, you have to meet all these incredibly high standards to be considered pretty for someone of your skin color, but at the same time, people have really low expectations for your beauty. You would think that since the expectations are so low that you would not need much to impress, but it is actually the opposite. Crazy huh?

“There’s no way you’re one hundred percent black. You can’t be. You have to be mixed with something else. Are you sure you aren’t?”

This is not just about black women being seen as the least attractive race of women or being at the bottom of the totem pole, although both of these things are quite frankly true.

“It is more about the baggage we have had to carry in regards to being compared to and represented as hideous beasts. It is about the degradation we have faced and continue to face for the skin color that we were born with that has all these negative stigmas attached to it. It is about how this baggage is still evident in the “compliments” littered throughout this article.”

Trust me, I know I’m black, and the world finds new ways to remind me everyday. This is all to say that our blackness is not a burden that we overcame with a little magic, a sheer stroke of luck, and a lot of prayers to some mystical higher being. I’m not ashamed of being black. In fact, being a black girl is pretty lit. We are not beautiful in spite of our blackness. We are beautiful period. The melanin is just an added bonus, an extra drop of sweetness if you will. Last time I checked, an extra dose of honey never hurt anybody.

“You’re gorgeous.”

“You’re hot.”

“You’re beautiful.”

There we go.