Is Black Really Beautiful?

12 Comments » November 20th, 2007 posted by // Categories: General Articles

Is Black Really Beautiful?

        Today, due to the impending Thanksgiving holiday in which our school week will end on Tuesday, I decided to show my 7th grade Technology students a movie.  The movie, entitled Brother Future, is about a black teenager who does not take his education seriously.  He daydreams in class when he should be listening to the teacher and taking in knowledge, he skips school whenever he feels like it, and he steals goods and resells it later to his ever-waiting customers.  Well the teenager gets hit by a car and is propelled—not into the future—but back into the 1820s when slavery was in full swing.  The purpose of my showing the movie was to help the students identify with the age of the character and his learning that education is a vital component of being successful and is directly connected to the quality of life one will have in the future. 

        During the film, my students’ eyes were glued on the projection screen, which enlarged the movie to such a degree that it could be viewed from almost any angle in the classroom.  My students began to ask me questions about what they were seeing in the movie.  For instance, one student said, “Why can’t he tell them he is not going to pick cotton in that field?”  Another one said, “If I was back there, I would not do it!”  Another asked, “Why does that slave have to go around to the back of his master’s house and not use the front door?”  The questions and comments went on throughout the movie, and I answered the questions and joined in the conversations that had sparked many interests about slavery and education, or a lack of Black education, during that time period.    

        I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and I moved from the corporate world of business to teach—to make a difference.  I am not a history teacher—although I do know history facts and can produce a decent answer when questioned.  But what astonished me is that my Black students (for the majority of them are Black) did not know many facts at all about the history of our own people.  Sure, some students could tell you that they were told that lynching and beatings and unfair treatment took place, but they seemed surprised about many things that were taking place in the movie.  So I asked them, “Does your History teacher talk about slavery in your class?”  Most of the students said, “No”.  “And if the teacher does, it is only just for a few minutes and we move onto something else.”

        I realized in that moment that many of Black America is ignorant about where they came from.  Some of my students did not even know that Charleston, South Carolina is documented as being the place where the first slaves were brought to when they landed in America. 

        Later that evening, I came home and read an article by Michael Oluwagemi II on Nigerians In America entitled, Mark My Words . . . Nigeria and Africa Shall Be Free.  I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say, for I know, by personal observation, how much poverty has taken hold of Nigeria.  I have never been able to get those images out of my mind—and I do not want to—for it is what holds me to her (Africa) in my heart.  I simply love Africa and its people—although I hate to see the suffering of my people.  However, I think another type of poverty has taken hold of Black America, and that poverty, to me, is cultural and ancestral ignorance. 

        I wrote an article entitled Disconnected from the Motherland some time ago, and after today’s experience, I believe Black America is also disconnected from themselves and their own African history.  We are failing to teach our children where they came from—never mind going as far back to the Motherland (Africa), let us at least start at the point when our African ancestors were shackled, chained, and brought into Charleston, South Carolina and sold into slavery. 

        I wondered why we Black Americans changed our ethnicity name from Black to African American.  Who thought of that?  Did someone say it was politically correct to be named such?  When I think about how much Black America do NOT identify with their African brothers and sisters (as a whole), why do we love the name so much then (African American).  Are we merely interested in the theory of Africa but not in the identification with it?  I am afraid for many that might be the case.   

        I have noticed that our Black children do not mind being Black as long as their skin color is not TOO BLACK.  Most of them will tell you that they do not want to be to dark skinned and cover their mouths in a grin when they say it as if embarrassed by their admission.  If you are light skinned, according to them, you are in another class of “blackness” (a better class as far as beauty).  On more than one occasion, my students have referred to a dark-skinned person as an African.  They forget in that moment, or at least I choose to believe it was not intentional, that my husband is African.  I will say something like, “I guess you have forgotten my husband is African!”  Then they will say, “Mrs. Daboh we did not mean any harm.”  I remind them that some of the most beautiful men and women in this world are Africans, and they come in all shades of colors like we do.  If young Blacks feel that way now and hold those prejudices within their own race of people, I wonder how their children, who will be reared by them, will think of a dark-skinned, Black person or an African.    

        Nigeria and Africa in all their poverty is really just a heart beat away from the ancestral and cultural poverty that Black America suffers.  Are we allowing our Black youths to be groomed to believe that “black is not beautiful?”  Is the saying, “I’m Black and I’m proud” just a cliché? I am afraid many Blacks do not mind being Black, as long as it is not TOO BLACK.

        Will Black America’s poverty stricken attitude against its own culture prevail to the point that we are, not only ashamed of ourselves, but ashamed of where we originated from?  In our eyes, is Black really beautiful?






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12 Responses to “Is Black Really Beautiful?”

  1. Dominic says:

    Ancestral and cultural poverty! That’s quite a mouthful. But let’s move on. The question is: does history matter? Does black history matter in a black kid’s education?

    I am as proud an african as you will ever get, and I always say that nobody ever regretted reading a book. But I am still not too sure how much black-american history I should pass on to my kids, and more importantly, at what age.

    I remember this one time we tried to watch that old famous movie “Gone With the Wind” . After about 3 minutes, my daughter asked, totally innocently: “but why are those black folks serving the white folks?”

    What the hell should I have answered to an 8 year old? Should I have lunched into a history about how they used to be our masters and, perhaps, unconsciously implanted the idea that they are somewhat subservient to the white race?

    Quite frankly, I didn’t know the right thing to do, which was why, question still hanging, I sent her out of the room to go fetch me a glass of water! When she left the room, I simply changed the movie. And I don’t intend to ever show it to them until much later.

    The thing is: you don’t want your kids to become SELF-CONSCIOUS black people. Not at age 8. That doesn’t do anybody any good.

    You don’t want them to think themselves as being special in any way. You don’t want them to see any sort of handicap in their color or race, historical or otherwise. You certainly don’t want them to graduate into any kind of victim-mentality, or to absorb the sort of low self-expectation and woe-is-me attitude that currently pervades the north american black population.

    Because my kids are not special, I expect them to excel in school, like every chineese or indian or white or whatever kid out there.

    I expect them to demand the best, to go for the best, to always expect everything and more from the world, whether they are interviewing for a job, or doing a business, or dealing with a government agency, or whatever.

    Whether they are good enough and whether they ever deserve the best from any situation is a question that should never arise. That they will suffer discrimination is something that shouldn’t enter their minds when they go around building their life. I expect they will expect the best from everyone in every situation, and that their whole attitude to life will be build around that.

    So, it isn’t clear to me that over-loading young kids with a self-conscious history of slavery and stuff like that is the way to achieve that.

    I give them assignments on the more positive aspects of Nigerian and African history.

    I expect they will learn about slavery somewhere between 15 and 18, when their minds and self-expectations/image are reasonably formed (I hope).

    But no … while they are 12 and under .. I expect them to confront the world like a free human who is ready to rock and take on the world. No excuses, no treat-me-with-kid gloves, no please-pity-me-my-ancestors-where-enslaved.

  2. pmdaboh says:

    Your point was well taken. But my point is that many Blacks (young, middle-age, and older) are ashamed of the blackness of their skin color (unless, of course, it is light-skinned or brown-skinned). Where are we getting that from? Are we as parents handing it down to our children? When I was young and I would go to the beach during the summer months day-after-day with my friends, my brown skin turned a darker shade. My mom would say to me, “Patty, you are going to be black as midnight if you don’t stop going to the beach so much!” I learned my darker colored skin was not pleasing to mom, for I had become TOO BLACK. When my children were young and we would come home after a day at the park or beach, I would listen to them tease one another about how BLACK they had become and determine who was the BLACKIEST. I would tell them that if they feel and say “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, then what difference does it make how BLACK they are. They soon got out of the habit of comparing their blackness among themselves after a day spent in the sun.

    The point of my article is that Black America is enslaving themselves by beimg ashamed of who they are and where they came from. The pride in our culture is fading! It is alright to be proud of the many
    Black accomplishments, which, unfortunately, we only hear recited during the month of Februrary, but our pride in our SKIN COLOR ITSELF is now turning out to be an embarrassment if that color is TOO BLACK. As a teacher who is with parents’ children more than the parents themselves in the course of a day, I hear things and see things that let me know that our Black children are ashamed of their dark skin color. I believe a parent should tell their black children their ancestral history, but when and how much at what time in their lives is up to the parents. However, know this that your child’s teacher, even at the age of 8, is introducing your child to some Black History facts–especially during Black History Month. So if you want to control how many facts, which facts, and how you want your child to perceive Black History, you better so some educating at home!

  3. Dominic says:

    I totally agree with you on the issue of skin colour. I can’t say for other parts of africa, but when it comes to pride on skin colour, north americans might actually be doing better than some of their nigerian counterparts. In north america, I don’t run into ladies who bleach their skin. In Nigeria, you run into that all the time.

    Also, while groups like the Yoruba remain culturally authentic for the most part, I run into Igbo Nigerians, even living in Nigeria, who want their kids to speak nothing other than English (yeah!). They give and call their kids by the most bombastic English names available (“Alfred”)!. Of course, by default, Africans worship western deities these days, often times even more than the white man himself.

    Anyway, all that negativity nothwithstanding, I still think north american blacks are making some progress on the cultural front. In the early eighties, it was not unusual for black men to fry their hair into those ridiculous-looking jerry-coils. Today, most of the men spot awesome-looking authentic black haircuts!

    Also, you even find ladies like Alicia Keys and Serena Williams sporting elaborate African hair-dos. I expect black artists will start popularising african fashion at some point.

    But the thing that will really do the greatest magic for our cultural identity and racial pride is economic empowerment. I live in Canada, and I am probably too involved in Canadian society to see our own problems objectively, but, woow, I am totally floored by the racial economic divide in the US. With a few local exceptions the economic gap between American black citizens and the rest of US society is stunning! I am forever shocked each time I visit a new US city. I think feelings of cultural inferiority are a natural outcome from that sort of economic circumstance.

  4. MoAl says:

    Good question … Black is beautiful, but depending on where you live, that statement can mean two completely different things — Some places, dark skin is most desired and while lighter complexions are given less attention, and vice versa as you’ve said.

    Media and pop-culture unfortunately tint all of our senses towards what is accepted as “beautiful”, and the more impressionable the person’s mind is — in this case, school-children — the more their opinions will reflect the media’s.

  5. vitaminD says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled on this article. It’s exactly what I’m struggling with as I’m coming of age as a Nigerian & an American female.
    Sadly, I think that it’ll be whatever the media reinforces to youth. Media says Alicia Keys is pretty, then she’s pretty regardless of cornrows.
    Would most women have even thought about Seal as “sexy” until he became the husband of supermodel Heidi Klum?
    And the list goes on…
    Maybe if I hire someone to do my PR, then I could popularize my look…hmm…

  6. odere says:

    There’s a phrase in “The Women of Brewster’s Place” novel that says “Black is neither beautiful nor ugly. Black is just that: Black.” I am inclined to associate thinking of being Black in this world with this phrase because the moment we start to romanticise our color, the real tendency is there to lose sight with what’s really important to do, both individually and collectively, as a race of people, for our greater good and the good of mankind at large. Blacks in America, generally speaking, may be chronically ignorant about their history and less comfortable with their identity but what would you say about the continental Africans who are consciously running away from their own identity, as evidence by what they think are important, intrinsically, aesthetically, even spiritually. I think we’re all confused and we don’t even seem to know it.

  7. pmdaboh says:


    Thank you for commenting on my article. I believe your point about being confused is very real. I comment on various topics on other boards as well, and one in particular talked about Nigerians who feel the need to change their names when they come over to America, for they feel they will not get a job if others know that they are Nigerian with so much focus on activities coming from that part of the world right now. Ironically, some do what they must in order to “get their foot in the door”, and if that means disassociating themselves from their country, even temporarily, then that is what is done. It is a shame that a reputation can cause some of them to be ashamed of who they are (in this case not due to color alone but geograhic and cultural identity).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Patricia Daboh

  8. Juanita says:

    Patricia, seems like you’d already know why some blacks do not want to be referred to as African Americans. It’s because they recognize how Africans truly feel about this so they’re ready to move on and forget about Africa and the Africans in it. No more no less.


    Thanks for reminding Africans who they are, regardless of geographic location. Africans should unit and build a great and better AFRICA. Lets stop running away from our root.

  10. antoinette says:

    First off all, “black americans came from mesopotamia and not africa. some filterated into africa and some into what is called the u.s. second, we did not come from slavery, every ethnic group was in some type of bondage but everyone is trying to stick black america into a slave box. alex haley, the writer of “roots” lied about his story so it can sell. the real truth is coming out about how the first slave ship that came over where indentured white slaves and how slavery was going on in africa.

    • Leye Ige says:

      There is a difference between indentured slavery, where the slave is not Personal Property and “chattel slavery” where the slave is. I don’t know where you got your history from but I do know that the Atlantic slave trade plied the Africa-US route.

  11. maeliss usher says:

    how can u say that slaves were not Africans that’s plain ignorant! of course they were Africans. westerners came to the shores of Africa first as a stop towards other continents. Mesopotamian was long gone. westerners started setting on the shores and after a while they started trading with the African villages, the thing is we already had slaves when tribes would fight the losing tribes would become their slaves and that’s how it started. the village leader would give their salves in exchange for guns. it was not until a long time did the whites actually venture into the African lands. as prove of u can go visit the remains of the slave castles in Ghana! PS:(roots is the story of his ancestors not fiction)

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