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Light Skin, Dark Skin and the things in between Pt. 2

As a kid, I was able to escape being teased as for as my dark skin was concerned, until I made it to Jr High, but my height enabled them to have a few laughs. I was called “Jolly Green Giant and Bean Pole,” which has me wondering what did vegetables have to do with teasing me for being tall?? It didn’t help that back then we had to line up by height, me being the tallest of the boys and the girls had me at the back of the line until the end of 6th grade.

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My 1st crush, well he crushed on me as well as in the 6th grade, but we could not go “steady,” because I was too tall. I was 5’7, but it meant more than enough to me that he thought I was cute. What I didn’t like was being outed for being too tall for him during lunch.

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Later on, my height didn’t matter, it was something others desired, and I found I could use it to my advantage. My girlfriends envied my height, because of the modeling hype. I was able to attract high school boys because of my height. Being tall equaled older for some reason. It enables me to get a part-time summer job at Shoney’s. My days of being the Jolly Green Giant finally over, but it made way for the girls to attempt to start to tease me for being dark-skinned. As I told my girls, ” ya can’t win with people.”

A few years ago my foster daughters and I were having a girl talk about issues they were having at school. It seemed that the “popular pretty girls” saw the need to make my girls aware of all that they were not. I was pretty taken aback that all three girls were having the same issues at the same time and did not attend the same school nor in the same grades. My heart hurt for them because I remember the feeling. They sat there with heart-broken teary eyes, looking at me as if I could wave a magic wand to make it better. Or load them up in the car to drive to the Mean Girl’s homes to either punch them in he mouth or tell their parents to send them off to boarding school. All I could offer is my undivided attention and share my story of overcoming judgment would help them get through theirs.

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It took a toll on their self-esteem, to the point they couldn’t see the beauty in each other, they believed the hype… I can hear them fussing with each other as if I recorded our conversation. They were actually inflicting the same pain upon each other that the girls at school did. I noticed that they were behaving as if they were mad at their reflection, as well as something that they envied of the other.

I would never have guessed that Skin Color would be an issue for the millennials; especially up in the northern states having a high population of biracial families. In New Orleans what I knew to be was light-skinned was Creole. You knew there was a white gene somewhere in the family line, but he wasn’t coming to Sunday Family Dinner. I was also, surprised to find out that biracial kids were being teased for the color of their skin and texture of their hair by both black and white people.

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As I said, we just can’t win with people. As a foster parent, my home was open to all kids, even the so-called “bad and the scary disabled kids,” my heart was opened to all children, I saw no labels. I love and took care of them all. In 2013 I had a house full of preteen-teen girls, all were going through puberty and battling with their own self-esteem issues. The girls at school didn’t make it any better. Actually, these bullies made their lives as well as mines worse at this sensitive time. I journaled on October 10, 2013, “I’m having light-skinned/dark-skinned black girl issues over here, well they are having problems at school. In our home, we range from biracial, dark-skinned, light-skinned and everything in between skin, wavy hair, kinky hair, short hair, weave hair, no hair, hazel eyes, brown eyes, short to tall and thin to plus size, but what they had in common was they all are gorgeous girls. I try my best to let them know that All Girls Rock and are Beautiful, but it doesn’t seem I have the magic to show them that their friends thoughts of them are not valid.

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One would think they wouldn’t be treating each other like this after being teased themselves. It actually is worse than what was reported to me at school, calling the other one ugly is one thing, but they fight. I wanted to run away from these crazy teens, but I choose to stay and help them work this mess out.” I think I should have run away. lol

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I sat at my desk looking out at little hill that my princesses and I have been blessed to live on top of. We all had a bad beginning, but God brought us together and sat us on top off this hill for a reason, if only to have a little breather from our past and hopefully enough time to prepare for a better future.

My girls were in rare form and for the 1st time I wasn’t sure if I could help them. It was bad, I thought to myself, while holding 6 inches of hair that was cut from one of their heads. I still can’t believe she cut her sister’s hair off to this day and to do it while she was sleep… Her reasoning was “she thought she was better than me, because she has longer hair than me” she said this with a sly cunning grin. All I could offer back was, “how do you feel now that you cut her hair?” I guess it was no feeling at all, because she just stood there.

I excused her and sat a bit more staring out my window like there was an answer out there among the greenery. I gained my composure, let out a woosah, had a hairstyle in mind for my newly chopped princess, as well as a pair of scissors awaiting the unlicensed stylist who recently had a weave done and I called the princesses down. Yes, my plan was to cut off the same amount of  hair off her head that she cut off her sister’s, well it wasn’t actually her hair, but it would have the same effect. I thought anyway.

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“Oh no you didn’t, what is wrong with y’all? I thought yall was mad with the girls at school, but why the hell are yall taking it out on each other?” “But, she cut my hair, what you thought I was gonna let her get away with that?” She was holding her sister’s cut up clothes, broken cell phone and diary in her hand, pushing her sister off with the other one, while she was yelling ” You better not ever go to sleep, because I’m gonna cut it all off! I’m not sure if it was worth saying, but all I could get out to sound authoritative was “So, forget me, Auntie Dee, the adult, the person who brought the items you destroyed and the woman of this house, who set the rules?” I was very pissed, as mad as all get out, but they didn’t care at the time.

Mind you, I was not home when her hair was cut, but when I came in, I ask for a moment to myself to figure out  plan of action and help for them, but she she goes upstairs to inflict her own revenge… I didn’t know how I was gonna fix this, I have a house full of girls who are being teased and bullied at school without even a word to the bullies, but they come home and tear each other apart. I didn’t get it, I wasn’t raised to behave like this especially, not when it comes to family. That’s it I’ll try to calm these crazed teens I crowned as princesses and tell them about my life. Over the course of knowing them I gave a piece of a story here and there or they heard someone talk of an event in my life, but I never sat down and gave them the full tea of my life.

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I grew up being the “dark-skinned, nappy headed, tall girl”, but within my family/friend circle I wouldn’t have noticed it, that is until school. I was born into a family with every tone a Black person could have, but it was like they were one solidary color. There were bigger issues on the table for them, maybe they fought over the bathroom, being that there was nine of them, but color, no. The awareness of whose pigment meant better was not up for debate because, they knew the white man saw black no matter the shade of skin.

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My Momo and Auntie Cookie were the lighter complected women in the family, high yellow or creole women as it was called. Typically, women of this complexion were pegged as being bougie, uppity, and anything descriptive of  those words. However, the women in my family were far from that, my Momo was the most humble, sweet, compassionate, loving, beautiful woman I have ever known. I think it’s, because of her that I wasn’t affected so much by the skin color wars.

I was born in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, my Momo lived in the Desire Projects and the building she lived in was diverse. My first childhood friends were biracial, they lived upstairs from my Momo. At that time and maybe, because I was a child or maybe it was from how I was raised, but I didn’t know they were biracial until I was a teen. I did notice differences, but over the years it was never directed in the light of them being better than me, because I was darker.

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I recall others outside my family and theirs referring to them as the girls with the “good hair,”  but once again I just saw hair hanging down their backs that was longer than mines. I recall a time when we all were getting our hair braided, I was asked what style would I like and said I wanted mine’s braided how theirs were to be braided. My hair was braided in the same style without a word from my aunt that my hair was not the same length or texture as theirs. Yes, their braids hang down the middle of their backs, but I remember all of us saying we were triplets, because we had the same hair style. I remember feeling happy and pretty.

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They never made me feel as if our differences made us not equally beautiful, we all were beautiful, it was as simple as that. I never heard any different, never heard them get praised for being pretty girls unless it was directed at all of us. It may be a Nola thing, because I have two girls whom are the same age and when a compliment is given its given to both girls, “Look at yall pretty girls,hey pretty girl and etc, that’s what I remember when I was a girl.. If anything they used to make a big deal over me, always made me feel special and part of their family, and we continued on like for years to come.

A native of New Orleans, who left her beloved New Orleans to spend twenty years of living in the land of Minnesota Not So Nice. Minnesota was full of opportunities but would learn that the soul of the state and the people who made it was just as icy cold as the temperatures. After the years and my 40th birthday flew by, I decided it was time to pack up my youngest child and come back to my roots, my birthplace the city that not only birthed me but gave me life. I would not be who I am without my New Orleans beginnings. I am all things that would challenge the belief of growing up in New Orleans. I was a 16yr old teen mother of a premature baby born with a severe medical disability. And only With the help of my mother, was it possible for me to BE! I was able to endure and survive the obstacles laid before my child and me. In a city that was built by my family, but did not allow for us to reap the benefits I overcame. Charity Hospital was my second home — a building filled with miracle workers who made it possible for my daughter to have life. I have lived a life of rainy days with peeks of sunshine, that are my children, including those not of my womb. I'm the proud mother of three and a grandmother of three. My dream was to live the life of the nursery rhyme of ”The Old Lady Who lived in a shoe,” and for the most part, I did. I cared for several children over the years as a special needs foster parent. I would learn that my love was not enough for some children, but I loved them through their pain. I'm not sure if I ever had a case of true love or came close to what love looks like on television, but I had my share of men and the mirage of love. I survived two abusive marriages. Though I longed to return to New Orleans on a daily bases, I must admit my move was one of the best decisions made for me. I am a college graduate; I was a successful entrepreneur. I coowned a soul food restaurant and catering company in Minnesota for 12 years. I developed the talent of creating custom cakes after the murder of my beloved cousin Melvin Paul. He survived Katrina only to go to Minneapolis six months later to be murdered over a parking spot dispute. But with the challenge of creating a simple wedding cake, I was able to find healing. I created the House of Cakes in honor of him. Minnesota life had me pretty materialistic. I worked to the point I do not remember much, but work and handing my children love money. I thought by having the big house on the hill, a husband, having a family, the ultimate provider and being involved in all things that matter, plus having the funds to match would cure me of what I was told was a generational curse of lack of everything from money, love to even self-love. But for the most part, that life poisoned my heart and soul. I was blinded by visions fed to me by the media. I was told I wasn't anything unless I was better than the Jones's. I lived being ok with a broken, bleeding heart. Life like this did not exist in my family while living in New Orleans from what I viewed with my eyes and soul. We may not have had all the things I acquired over the years, but we were happy, we were together. Family outside of New Orleans wasn't family anymore. We lived separate lives and had awkward moments when we bumped into each other in public. I hated living in Minnesota even though life their helped me in so many ways. I felt deep down the only way to repair it was to get back to my roots, my soul, my home, myself, my New Orleans. I'm here, and I love it. Even being in the so-called Blighted Area of New Orleans and not having all the financial and material security, I'm happy. I am determined that She, yes, New Orleans is a woman is just like me; together, we will overcome and will rise from all that tried to kill our spirit. Nothing like starting from the bottom and making your way back up!. I just know in my heart that New Orleans will provide for me. There's a bank account with funds in it owed to me by way of back pay for my ancestors. And I will receive my inheritance, and I will continue the traditions and customs of the old to keep the heartbeat of New Orleans beating. I'm down in the boot, living the life that feels right to me awaiting my destiny...

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