“Define me!” I shouted, staring blankly in the mirror, my red lipstick oozing with appeal. Lashes battering, fluttering as butterfly wings, I threw my glance up and tipped my chin to the ceiling, coercing a faux laughter as preparation for the flashes and the stage. My mind circled in pondering a of what speech I’d give as I accepted the award. Blank pages came to mind.
The room was steps to the carpet as red my crimson lips, which by the way matches the bottom of my shoes. But none of these matter. Red, the colour of passion – of love, and rage, and warmth, always outdoing all the other colours. It strikes your eyes as bright and tempting as the forbidden apple, yet even that doesn’t matter. Red – it’s but a colour.
Colour, I thought. I am coloured. And this mattered.
No matter what I did, big or small, good or bad, they always referred to my colour and the country I came from as the reason or the “despite which.” My colour had given me more pain than joy, and not by choice. It made dreams twice as hard to achieve, and every stepping stone was more of a milestone. It spoke details about me that I didn’t know and told stories about me that were not true. Where others reacted fairly, I was called angry because my colour said so. Where others were sympathized, I apparently deserved it because it was a birthright of my skin tone. Where others got a free pass, I was rebuked, because my colour made it more likely for me to repeat my mistakes. My colour hurt me, but I love it so, because of its infinite resilience and uncrackable melanin. It’s beautiful.
So I chose to speak about it. It’s not the colour of my lipstick, or my shoes and clothes that’ll ever matter, but the colour of my skin. It’s the earthen tones blending evenly into sun-kissed pallets, with every mark of defeat and victory etched into the lines of my smile. I embrace it all with pride.
In every way possible they made it harder because of the chocolate skin that Momma gave me. Every time I fell, I stood up again and carried myself with the grace and the strength of the brown-skinned queens who raised me. Others’ words broke my soul more than stones ever could, and shrunk my very being, crammed me into small places and pushed me into back corners like a forgotten figurine on the bottom shelf of a dusty old etagere. But I stepped out quietly and in the tiniest voice, spoke my truth.
I did it for me, and all my coloured sisters who know this story in some way or form. I did it, so that when my pen touches the page, the words would sing a hymn to Him who created us from stardust as rich and powerful as the earth that bears the roots of the tallest trees. Making it in this skin was a million times harder, but we did it anyway, and we’re here to tell you so. So let the hymns then be anthems to our mothers, grandmothers, our sisters, and more. Let the tortured tint now be the hue of victory, as we wear our skin as the tiaras of melanin, and the Crowns of Colour.
R. A. Douglas ©June 14, 2019.
– In response to racism and racial slurs re:colour and ethnicity.