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#RealizedIWas: One Woman’s Journey From Shame to Self-Love Featured Human Rights 

#RealizedIWas: One Woman’s Journey From Shame to Self-Love

Illinois (GREED) – Back in February of this year, CNN started the #realizediwasblack social media movement. A video was posted on Facebook with several notable Black celebrities and public figures, each of them describing the moment they realized they were Black. All of the stories varied from one another, by age or location or by the level of cruelty. But as different as each story was from the rest, they were also very much the same. Each person could recall the traumatizing moment in which their Blackness was used to try and break them. After watching the video, I started thinking back to when I realized some things about myself.

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I realized I was different in 2nd grade. Our teacher was introducing us to pictographs and had each student make a paper doll representation of themselves. We then got to place our doll under the column that best matched. Some children put their dolls under the white child with blue eyes. Some put theirs under the white child with brown eyes. A few put their doll under the white child with green eyes. When it came time for me to put my doll somewhere, I was lost. My teacher told me to just stick my doll on the side of the board, since there was no column for me. I asked to go to the bathroom and I cried in the stall. I wished I had green eyes.

I realized I was fat in 3rd grade. At lunch, a boy named Noah walked up to my table and called me fat, right in front of everyone. Some children laughed out loud, others giggled quietly. My brother had called me fat before, but it didn’t feel the same as it did when this boy said it. I asked the lunch lady, who gave me an extra peanut butter and honey sandwich every morning (because she said I was so sweet), if I could go to the bathroom and I cried in the stall. Noah was my first crush and I had been his, up until that day.

I realized I was Black in 7th grade. A new friend had invited me to her house after school one day. I didn’t have many friends, so I was pretty excited to have been invited. While we were walking to her house, she told me that her dad didn’t like Black people. I felt a rush of panic. She must have noticed, because said that it was really just Black men that he didn’t like, so I would be fine. I felt instant relief, so much so, that I nearly cried. I really wanted that friendship to work out. I also felt sad for my dad, because he is Black and he’s really nice.

I didn’t realize how damaging, hateful and wrong any of this was, until I was in my 30’s. I had grown so accustomed to hating myself, that it was my normal. I hated my big curly hair, my brown skin and my fat body. I laughed at myself and allowed others to laugh with me. It didn’t even hurt anymore, I’d become so numb to it. Until one day, my oldest daughter told me she wished she was white. She told me that she wished her hair was blond and her eyes were blue. She told me that she didn’t like being a brown girl. I felt that same rush of panic I felt when my friend told me her dad hated me and my family, without even knowing us. I pulled her into my arms and told her how beautiful she was, and that she was born perfect. I made sure that she believed me too. Then I went to the bathroom and cried.

 

The first time I realized my skin color mattered was when I was in the fourth grade. As kids, we would play this game of ‘house’ on the playground, and we would drive our pretend cars, and go to pretend work, and have our pretend families. I spent several weeks playing the daughter and I wanted to change and be the Mother. So I asked the next time we were outside, and I’ll never forget it. There were these two twin boys, Matthew and Mark, blonde and blue-eyed. And one of them yelled in front of the whole group… “You can’t be the Mom, because you’re black.” And then they laughed. Apparently we could imagine that we were driving cars… but it was too much of a stretch to imagine a black mother. And yeah, I cried. #RealizedIWasBlack #BlackGirlMagic #BlackLivesMatter

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I realized I was beautiful when I was 32. I cut all of the chemically straightened hair off my head, finally embracing my natural coils. I stopped wearing oversized white tee shirts and sweatpants, finally embracing this big beautiful body that bore 4 children and survived cancer. I bought makeup that perfectly matched my skin tone and watched countless tutorials on how to apply it, finally embracing my melanin and all its glowing perfection. I decided that the best way to teach my brown daughters to love themselves, was to love myself.

When I elementary school i was the teachers pet. Literally i could do no wrong in my teachers eyes. Unfortunately that put other people off and behind the scenes some of the not so great students started talking bad about me. When i heard about it i went to confront the leader of the group. He was a lighter skinned person and i went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. He turned around and when he saw it was me before i could say anything to him he got in my face and said “keep your dirty hands off me i don’t want the mud you bathe in to rub off on me”. Naturally i was in such shock i couldn’t say anything and he walked off. It wasn’t until recess where i finally understood why he said that. So i sat in the classroom and cried. I never felt so ashamed of my skin color or disgusted by myself. And that was when i first encountered the deafening reality that despite being human like everyone else my skin color put me in a category deemed dirty, unclean, and disgusting in the eyes of others. I am proud of my skin color and i have even embraced my natural hair texture and became interested in my culture, but that one incident still to this day stands out in my mind and i’ll never forget it. #realizediwasblack

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I’m 34 now. I’ve never been more aware of and in love with myself, than I am now. When I look back, I feel as though I wasn’t meant to be here, in this place of self love. This is probably true for many women, especially my fellow sisters of color. But here I am, coils on point, melanin poppin’, big body banging. I win. They lose. I’ll never cry in a bathroom again.
This original report was prepared by Malissa Acosta for Greed Media.

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