6. Wait, what? I’m what? Me?
On the plane ride from Dubai to Accra and it started to hit me that I was really going to Africa. I started saying all the lame things that people say such as “Wow, the motherland!” and the like. However, at the same exact time I could not help but notice that almost everyone on the plane was darker than me. My skin tone is a “regular brown”. In my mind, my skin tone is the same as most Black people you will find. It’s not common in the United States to see a lot of people in large numbers that are several shades darker than me. Growing up, my Dad would always say “the darker the skin the closer you are to the earth.” So I never thought being “dark skinned” was a bad thing or ugly. As far as my skin tone, in my head, I’m right at the earth. Turns out, nope. I got a very rude awakening on this plane. I was honestly starting to get jealous. I thought to myself “Wow, I wonder if this is how light skinned people feel?” Then it suddenly occurred to me that most of the people on this plane could call me light skinned and they would, technically, be right!
Oh no! I started thinking about all the jokes I tell my friends to their face and all of the jokes that people make about light skinned Black people. I was horrified. Partly because I couldn’t think of any sharp comebacks and I know I’ve heard plenty of solid comebacks. If anybody on that plane pointed to something I did and blamed it on me being light skinned (technically), I had nothing! I say all of this in jest, but there is a bit of truth to all of this. In this moment of realization, I thought back to that Richard Pryor special where he said he visited Africa, came back and didn’t want to use the “N word” anymore. I hadn’t even been in African air space before I swore off making light skinned jokes ever again.
I’m still joking, but I am going to work on it; in real life. It’s not funny; but sometimes it is. Except that now I feel super bad for laughing and making jokes. When I realized that I was a light skinned person (technically, in that particular situation) I came to see that those jokes are hurtful and mean and I’m surprised that more light skinned and mixed people don’t take more offense to these awful jokes. It would make me want to fight somebody that came with the right joke at the wrong time. Browner Black people like myself are all trash for making light skinned jokes. Us browner people need to make an effort to make lighter skinned people feel just as Black as we do. It’s the right thing to do.
It was all funny to me at the time but I still felt some kind of way. I felt like I wasn’t as Black as I thought I was and everyone around me is Blacker than me. I’ve never felt like that before. A new experience. I didn’t like it. I eventually got over it because I was starting to get more excited about being on the continent more than I expected. But that feeling of guilt and knowing I’m not as “Black” as I thought, will definitely stick with me for as long as I am Black.