I was about 8 or nine when my colour was mentioned directly to me. It was in Sierra Leone where I grew up by a white woman married to a Sierra Leonean. Her daughter was my friend and I remember clearly her saying something like ‘You are the prettiest dark black girl I know’ or ‘You are pretty for a dark black girl’. I do not remember the words exactly but I do remember thinking what an odd thing it was for someone to say. So I dd what any happy 8 year old would do and ignored her and continued playing.
The next time I had to think of my colour was at 16 when I moved to the UK. It just comes with the territory. I realised that the comment was quite a negative reinforcement of the light skin stereotype of black people (the lighter, like the woman’s daughter, the better looking). What I had not realised was the impact the ‘dark black’ comment had on me.To this day I describe myself as dark black not negatively but with immense pride.
My daughter’s first time was at 3 in nursery when she came home and said a girl had said she did not like her because she was black. She was extremely upset and confused. The solution for her was to go into nursery the next day and say ‘it is sad that you do not like me because I am black but I love me and there is really nothing you can do about it!’ Exactly what she did and she carries that attitude to this day 12 years on. In the background I made the head of the nursery aware of what had happened.
So when was you first time your colour was brought to your attention in a negative way?