Being Chocolate: Are Darkies Still Less Accepted?

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I was born chocolate. You know the colour of that sweet, dark, mocha mix that just sets your taste buds alive?

I’ve never thought much about being chocolate, nor have I ever thought that my chocolate colour has hindered me in any way. Over the years, I’ve grown used to hearing “Pssstt…Darkie” from random men, as I walk by. And when I was pregnant with my son, I got even darker, and I never felt like I needed to smile more, so that people could still find me in the dark. Seriously, though, being of a chocolate complexion has never bothered me. So when I began to hear about the groundswell of negativity that surrounded Trinidad and Tobago’s current Miss World representative, Athaliah Samuel, I was a bit taken aback. People could not have possibly been ‘hating’ on the girl simply because she was chocolate? Right?

People could not have possibly been ‘hating’ on the girl simply because she was chocolate? Right?

I started my research by scanning the Miss World site, and found a poorly, no…a bad, photo-shopped picture of the girl in question (they did replace it afterwards). But other searches found a uniquely beautiful, physically toned and elegant young woman. I ignored most of the ole talk, until top comedienne Rachel Price jumped into the brew. How could I not be interested now?

Ms. Pricey suggested that everyone was being a donkey’s behind, because they had a problem with the fact that the girl was from Laventille, had a gap in her front teeth, and, of course, most importantly, she was chocolate. Ms. Price went on to suggest that we would rather embrace a representative who said “Fur shure”, instead of “Diz wha ah talking bout”, and reminded her fan base that when Wendy Fitzwilliam was initially chosen, she also received the same negativity that Athaliah was receiving.

I searched the local blogs and found some comments that were so mean that I refuse to repeat them here, but at the end of it all, I wondered, had I – Ms. Proud Dark Chocolate – unconsciously been the subject such stigma too?

I have lived all of my life in a multicultural, multifaceted society, where I think it would be rather difficult to find any race that has not been genetically ‘touched’ by another. But ever so often, issues like these arise and cause me to question my reality.

Okay…so maybe I’m naïve, but, when an Indian guy at my office paid me a compliment, by saying that he found me really attractive for a “dark girl”, wasn’t he just being honest?

Okay…so maybe I’m naïve, but, when an Indian guy at my office paid me a compliment, by saying that he found me really attractive for a “dark girl”, wasn’t he just being honest? Or was he simply trying to fulfil some kind of Nubian fantasy? Or maybe when my Chinese secondary school mate told me – quite hesitantly I might add – that her dad said she should “watch me”, while at their shop, to ensure that I didn’t steal anything, he was only being careful about the strange, little girl from the “bad man area” who hung out almost daily at his house…Right? Or maybe when a friend secretly told me that her family had special dishes for people like me, I should have taken greater offense.

Instead, I have lived most of my life almost naively believing that all of the negatives I may have faced were limited to a small group of people, with a multitude of biases and not based solely on the fact that I am the colour of mocha. To each his own, has been my response to most of these incidents, and any hurt I felt was soon dismissed, for I’ve never felt uncomfortable in my chocolate skin.

After reading those blogs, however, I feel like I cannot continue to stick my head in the proverbial sand, for I believe that the issue that’s keeping me up at nights is this…Are we as a people, still so backward that we can judge a person purely of the colour of their skin? Do we still think that lighter is better, and “if yuh black stay in de back?” Do women of colour still look down on their darker sisters, feeling that the lighter shades of chocolate are better? And do we, as mocha sisters, still see ourselves as ugly or not as pretty as lighter women? Do we still think that we do not fit the world’s standard of beauty, because we can’t see our veins?

Machel Montano’s recent video for his Soca hit, “Bottle Of Rum”, mostly featured girls who looked like the bottle, clear. I personally have no problem with that. But can I really ignore the fact the ladies of the darker tones are missing from many of our print, television and billboard advertising? In fact, a guy in advertising once told me, “You would never get an ad in Trinidad [with dark people]”. Then he paused to think and said…”Well maybe a Crime Stoppers ad!” I had burst out laughing at that comment, because to me it was seriously funny. To the friends I told, not so much.

Maybe I have ignored the fact that I live in a society where skin colour does matter. And the darker the chocolate, the less the acceptance? I posed that as a question, because I do not want to believe that to be true. I’m hoping that chocolate mummies do not still tell their sons and daughters to “put some milk in dey coffee”, for that would be…well sad. It’s even worse to think that after all this time, and with all the blends and the beauty of the various races in Caribbean society, there are many who still see and can only see colour.

I still hope, though, that one day, generations will begin to look deeper, and measure a person by their motives, their hearts and their actions, instead of simply by the colour of their skins.

Until then, to all my chocolate sisters…look into the mirror and see your beauty. See that your skin has been kissed by the sun. Teach your daughters the self-love that you wish was taught to you and live your life to the fullest. Let nothing hold you back, especially the colour of the skin that you had no choice in choosing, but was given as a gift from the creator. Embrace your gift. To Athaliah…You represented us well. Keep your head up, my beautiful, chocolate sister.

 

Image via entertainmentfromd.net

Katyan Roach

When she’s not pondering the deep mysteries of life, Katyan Roach writes. She tries to put a humorous spin on most issues, as she thinks laughter can get us through anything, and, if that doesn’t work then, there’s always ice cream. She tries to live by the following quotes: “Love is as love does. When you know better you do better. Love God, remember those in need and don't take yourself too seriously".

14 Comments

  1. ReidDesigns

    August 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Being an “Ad man” myself I think that statement above “You would never get an ad in Trinidad [with dark people]” is just not true. In fact LOTS of clients REQUEST them, the problem really is the POOL of models being paraded around for Ad Agencies to hire. . . food for thought. Follow me @twitter-17922471:disqus get a Keep Calm Tshirt.

    • Karel McIntosh

      August 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Reid do you think this happens because darker people assume that agencies want fairer complexions, based on what they see in ads?

  2. Richard Jobity

    August 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    She beautiful. The “chocolate” is actually reinforcing the stereotype of “Dark” as difference. Unless it is merely a descriptor. But yes, Trinidad and Tobago screw up like that.

  3. Eric White-Russell

    August 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I LOVE CHOCOLATE AND BEING CHOCOLATE

  4. Nicole Anatol

    August 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Sometimes it takes a little spotlight Katyan and you wielded it well. Good work!

  5. Moden Makeup

    August 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I still see this here in Barbados. We do have a complex as a people when it comes to the colour of our skin and I still get the ‘my friend ya is a good looking darkie’, does it bother me YES, should we still push for a societal change OF COURSE. WE are all one people whether red, yellow,black, white or orange!

  6. Grace Walker

    August 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I must be naive too. Because when I look at Athalia Samuel, I see the image of my late father, and the very likeness of my own son, who for me is as beautiful as God is creation. I too, during my secondary school years in TnT, was rudely awakened to the social divisions that are created by the lack of understanding, underscored by predujice and racism. The harsh affront of racism for me, was that I didn’t have the more european features of some of my “red” counterparts. So because my hair didn’t curl the right way, nor was it the length that fell to my shoulders, nor were my eyes green, or hazel, and my nose not pixily pointed or curved, and I was big boned, compared to my petite bodied friends, I was the “black” sheep of my particular group of friends. Because most of us from the end of South pitch lake to the top of North Coast, and lest not forget, the breadth and scope of Tobago too, have in our roots of ancestry a kaleidescope of color of all variations, some more blue, or like me more red, it is the most ridiculous of our species, that continue to perpetuate this shallowness of the color of blackness, that defines our race as a people. There will always be eyes of predujice and we will use all of the social camouflages of color, of breed, of background, of means to trivialize the value of our human kinship. Thankfully, or maybe not.. until we are all blind and can see the beauty in the reflection of our innermost beings, our eyes will be our greatest weapon of insidious racial profiling..

  7. Anne-Marie Isis Lall

    August 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I don’t know if its just being dark but as someone who is mixed I’ve had people when I was younger ask me why I have pubic hair on me head, steups when it wasn’t pressed straight.

  8. Nazireh Reis

    August 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Everywhere in this world there is some kinda problem with skin colour…this has to do with small-mindedness and chupidity. This sh*t should stop we in the damm 21st century not the 15th…thanks for the article…always great and interesting stuff comming from this magazine!

  9. Sasy Singles Wearble Art

    August 21, 2012 at 3:29 am

    i know there is still the question
    so i surmise there is still an issue – THANK YOU sharing

  10. Warren Anderson

    August 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    The first time I saw that pubic hair joke was online after a white guy said it. I’ve never heard anyone else but white people make that joke. @Ann-Marie…I don’t think its just being dark but ‘non-white’. Because of the social structure perpetuated in some places, the further from white you are is the more open you are to attack. @Nazireh I’m tired of it too, but its easier for those of us in a cosmopolitan society to move on, than those living among the hives of poor excuses for human beings.

  11. Kevin C

    August 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

    VERY insightful piece, Ms Roach!

  12. Laura

    August 28, 2012 at 11:22 am

    It is truly sad, it is very sad when the black community – regard each other in this way. Breaking ourselves down and segregating ourselves in this way. What I think the black community need to realize in countries like Trinidad and around the world, is that no one is better than anyone on the basis of looks, behavior/mind/attitude those things define you and are more important. if someone thinks that better than you because their skin is light or hair is long, it doesn’t make it true . ( That is the world’s standard the world says ‘ plenty wrong ting’ ) So Once people understand that , then no one can hold anything over you. keep spreading that message through the generations, then that will be the start of progress for all the community.

  13. Angel

    October 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Regarding Athaliah Samuel, I was disappointed in her being chosen because to me she is not attractive, at least not in a pageant sense. Maybe high fashion. Maybe. I have not met her in person, but I am yet to see a flattering photo of her- poor makeup and a ridiculous weave to me just detract from her looks, not enhance them. I don’t have a problem with her dark skin- in fact, I think our best representative to these pageants in recent years was Kenisha Thom. She is stunning! Not stunning for a ‘darkie’, just stunning! But that’s just me. There are people out there who would have a problem with Ms. Samuel simply because of her dark skin. Those people have issues. But not everyone who have problems with her have them because of the colour of her skin. I don’t like criticizing people’s looks, because it’s not like I’m a beauty queen or anything, but she was chosen to represent us in a BEAUTY pageant………. I had the same problem with Nicole Dyer in 1999………

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