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She visibly fights to cloak her pain when she refers to herself as the black, ugly girl… but when she is showered with love, she can't take it at all. This is the result of slavery, institutional racism, systematic oppression, media bias, and a dominant narrative that our beauty is in fact, not beauty at all, unless it measures up to neo-exotic or Eurocentric standards. While some aspects of the web of racism are more concealed, colorism is overt. We don't even need an overseer or a minstrel show to persuade us to believe farcical notions about our complexions anymore; we are highly effective at normalizing it for ourselves. Just look at trending hashtags such as "team light skin" and "team dark skin" which currently have a combined total of almost 700k posts. This pattern of self-hatred is coveted like an heirloom, gifted by those that disenfranchised our #culture. Many of us, who are aware of color casting, rebel against such antics and are unapologetically proud of who we are. We embrace every shade of black and brown from ivory to caramel, to sepia and maple, to mahogany and oak, to ebony and onyx. We find no need to note differences between our complexions, unless it's a compliment. We walk with our heads held high. For those that I am describing, I salute you and ask that you begin to take a look around: are people still perpetuating colorism in your circle of friends, in your family, on your timeline? Exactly. There's work to UNDO because these deeply rooted seeds of hate are still flourishing among our culture. We are not free if everybody is not free. Mental bondage is the deadliest of all.
A group of young Southwest Baltimore Charter students comforted one of their peers after she told them she never felt beautiful because of her dark skin.
In a now-viral Jan. 29 video, the eighth-grade student identified only as Janiyah said that she has always been told she wasn’t beautiful because of her complexion.
“I thought light-skinned girls were pretty because I was always the Black ugly girl,” Janiyah says in the short clip. “You can look at all the light-skinned complexions and everybody is in love with them and their face and everything. And it’s like dang, is it because I’m dark skinned I’m not pretty? I’m not. I always thought I wasn’t because that is what people told me.”
After her courageous confession, 9-year veteran teacher, Valencia Clay, jumped in and told the students to give Janiyah “10 seconds of compliments.” The young girl covered her face as her peers showered her with kind words about everything from her skin to her personality and smile.
At one point, Clay chimed in adding, “I love your voice. I love your brilliance. I love your creativity. I love when you sing. I love how caring you are.”
Clay told ABC News that the video was taken during a morning discussion on life skills. In the past, her students revealed that they have had trouble giving and receiving compliments. So now, Clay has encouraged her students to compliment one another and lift each other up.
“Like, [giving compliments] really does work and we have to uplift each other,” she told ABC News. “It was powerful.” Since the video’s release, Janiyah has taken it upon herself to “help other girls who used to feel like her.”
“She said, ‘Those comments were everything, Ms. Clay,'” Clay recalled. “I’m so grateful for everybody that took a moment out of the day to compliment [me].”