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Black Beauty: an essay by Tiara Trent

Black Beauty

When I was a child I couldn't make sense of it at the time but I hated the color of my skin, the kinks and coils of my hair, and the fullness of my lips.

Although I was told that I was beautiful by my family, the media that I consumed subconsciously led me to believe otherwise. It led me to believe that being black wasn’t beautiful. This phenomenon of internalized racism did not just sit on the surface of my skin but delved deep inside my mind.

Words that I associated with my race at the time would be “loud, obnoxious, and aggressive”. All words that American society had pushed on my people for hundreds of years. These words were the opposite of my personality and because of that I acted as if I was better than those who could be described as those words. I was dividing myself from rich culture due to my own prejudices.

I know that I wasn’t the only kid in the Bronx who felt this way about themselves. I knew kids who would make remarks about the darker skinned kids. Little girls who got hated on for wearing their natural hair. But what is it that causes this internalized prejudice in young people and even some adults?

I remember this episode of a cartoon called The Winx Club. In the episode there was a beauty pageant where one of the contestants was a Black girl who was having a “hair disaster”, which was what they called it. This “hair disaster” was really just her natural hair in an afro. They made her feel like she was ugly. They poked at her hair as if it was a foreign object. She cried, but they played it off as if it was a comical situation. Watching this as a young Black girl has stuck with me to this day. At the time I didn’t understand how it made me feel, but now it makes me angry as I write this essay. I wonder as to why the writers of that episode thought it would be okay to portray black hair as ugly. The ignorance that was depicted is astonishing.

The media at the time did not always represent the Black community in good light. Thugs, gangbangers, and drug addicts are what some news stations and movies were all they portrayed us as. Unfortunately, as an impressionable child I thought that to be true.

There wasn’t an exact moment that I could pinpoint that led to awareness of my issue, but a gradual change began to occur as I grew older. I began to get my news and information from the internet where it opened my eyes to the systematic racism that was in place in America. It changed my mind on who I was and how I viewed other people. I began to follow the “Black Lives Matter” movement and attend protests. Eventually I learned to love the color of my skin, the kinks and coils of my hair, and the fullness of my lips. All things that I think make me beautiful. That I think makes others beautiful. Sometimes I still struggle with the idea of beauty. It can be difficult when the societal beauty standard doesn’t describe you, but the constant process of learning to love myself does make a difference.

Tiara Trent is a student at Norwalk Community College. The essay was her "Cause and Effect" assignment for English 101.

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