I loved being a chocolate baby doll, I remember hearing
“You’re so cute!”
“Look at those eyes!”
“You have a head full of hair.”
I never heard the qualifier
“you’re so cute, for a dark little girl”
all I heard was
“cute dark girl”.
It wasn’t until kindergarten, I started associating my skin complexion as something negative. I went to school in my plaid dress, with my hair in two pony tails accented with chunky red yarn bows.
I left out my Grams’ home knowing I had mastered a high level of cuteness and was looking forward to hearing a compliment from Ms. Pearlman. I walked into the classroom, hung my coat up twirled and faced with my nemesis, Kim.
Kim was a very cute, tidy Japanese girl who created my hated kindergarten nick name, Chicken Chow Mien. And it was Wednesday, which meant Chicken Chow Mien was on the menu.
“Hey, Chicken Chow Mien! You ready for Chicken Chow Mien for lunch today?” I just rolled my eyes and lifted my arm showing off my Scooby-Doo lunch box, turned my back and neatly put my lunch box in the cubby over my coat.
Fast forward to lunch, I had a peanut butter sandwich on toasted bread, but the bread sweated so it was a bit soggy, but it it was neatly cut on the diagonal. Before I can take my first bite Kim pointed and declared “Chicken Chow Mien’s bread is burnt!” Now what did I do to deserve such attention, I had no clue. I looked down at my sad peanut butter sandwich and realized it was a tad dark.
Back in the classroom I was keenly aware of my nick name, Chicken Chow Mien was replaced with Burnt Toast. It was like everyone was in on the joke except me. I’m not sure how I made the connection, but by the end of the day I was keenly aware of the meaning behind my new nick name. See, Chicken Chow Mien was a play on my name, but Burnt Toast was meant to be a play on my dark complexion.
“Grams, I’m ugly because my dark!” I can’t recall how my Grams reaction was, but I’ll never forget what she told me. “Don’t you know Black is beautiful?” And that was it. I wish the words from my wise loving Grams held more weight then my classmates, but they didn’t. And it would be years before I believed my Grams affirmation.