I bit my tongue on this topic for a while. Mainly because I have never wanted to be known as a Black beauty writer who only shared the not-so-friendly side of living in her dark brown skin, but instead glorified the beauty of brown women as a whole.
But, I’m pretty much over this shit. Excuse my language.
I wasn’t going to write this post, ever. But, one night a week ago, I was waiting for my workout class and happened to scroll across an Instagram post by Karrueche (Chris Brown’s girlfriend…ex…whatever). It was a picture of her and two little girls who were dark brown and gorgeous! I mean, they were adorable. One looked about 7, the other about 5.
Hundreds of comments poured in. And while many people commented on the fact that her two nieces were just outlandishly pretty, there were also people saying ignorant things about their dark complexions because, you know, that’s what Trolls do.
But then there was one comment made that irked my soul:
“Oh my gosh she is so cute. She looks so exotic.”
This follower happened to be commenting on the oldest girl in the picture standing in the middle.
Now, let me disclaim that I know this person may not have meant this comment with any shady or bad intent. But, it still struck a nerve that made me question the reasoning behind saying that this little girl was so pretty with a nod to the fact that she looked so “exotic” (what does looking “exotic” mean anyway?
Let me share something with you all:
Last fall, a man approached me as I was walking home with awe in his eyes.
“Oh my gosh, you are beautiful”, he said. “Thank you so much”, I responded graciously. I continued to walk, minding my business.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Maryland”, I responded as I continued to walk to my Bushwick apartment.
“No, like where is your family from?”, he continued.
I finally stopped and looked at him for a second.
“Uh, Arkansas and DC”, I said as I laughed. This hadn’t been the first time a guy had asked me over and over again where I or my family was from because of my “look”. I was sort of used to it, and sort of used to the implied intent behind asking these series of questions. But then, he followed up with the most blunt, disrespectful response in regard to Black women I’d pretty much ever heard.
“Nah….nah. You CAN’T just be Black American. Like you can’t just be a regular Black girl. You’re too pretty.”
DEAD. FISH. EYES.
For a good two seconds, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I composed myself and asked him where he was from.
“Brooklyn, I’m a regular Black n****a”, he said as he laughed, awkwardly waiting for me to understand and join in the humor. I didn’t.
“Um, what? So, you’re a “regular Black American” man from Brooklyn, who just told a “regular Black American” woman she’s too pretty to be a “regular Black woman”? Like, how your mom is a regular Black woman? Really? Sir, please get out of my way. Thanks.”
I attempted to walk away but then he cut me off with a perfect, ignorant follow up:
“Nah sis, it ain’t like that. I’m just saying you look wild exotic.”
I looked at him with the utmost disgust, and then kept it moving. He, to this day, probably still doesn’t get it.
Maybe I was a bit harsh, but I really have grown tired of this.
Here’s the thing: this wasn’t my first or last incident when someone, most likely a Black person, felt the need to tell me that I couldn’t be a regular ass Black girl because I was “too pretty to be so”. And while I appreciate people thinking that I’m a pretty person, that’s not a damn compliment.
What’s weird is that many people will try to tell me where I’m from based on how I either have my hair, or if my shape is showing. If I have a curly weave in my hair, I’m Dominican. If my hair is pulled back, I’m Jamaican. If I’m rocking my natural hair, I’m from one of the Islands.
Side note: I think I’m a beautiful woman inside and out, but I don’t go gawking at myself. So when someone acknowledges me offering a compliment, I am very appreciative, happy and grateful. But to me this, this type of backhanded compliment is degrading and insulting to both Black women and Black people as a whole.
In my opinion, it installs this notion that a) black women aren’t naturally pretty, and b) if a black woman is pretty, she could potentially be from the islands, mixed, or something else other than just a Black American woman.
Sadly, he wasn’t the last person to say this to me. Ironically, my last encounter with someone telling me I looked so exotic and that “I should be so happy that I do”, was a Black woman. We were at a professional event, so I didn’t want to get an attitude in public. But, I did politely correct her, letting her know that while I really appreciated her complimenting me, I didn’t think it was appropriate to assume I’m not a Black American woman because I’m “pretty”. She wasn’t really feeling me for the rest of the evening, and I really didn’t give a damn.
And, just to let you know, I’ll politely curse out the next guy who decides to fawn over me because he thinks he’s getting some out of this world exotic Black girl, realizes I’m a “regular Black American” woman, and then decides to lose interest (yes, that’s happened before).
Black prettiness is not circumstantial. A beautiful Black woman is just that. I’m not exotic. I don’t even know what that shit means. I’m not exceptionally pretty because I’m a “regular” black girl. I’m pretty because I’m pretty. I’m beautiful because I’m beautiful. Beautiful Black women are just that.
So, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you decide to tell a Black girl or a woman of color she’s so pretty and then decide to follow up with your ignorant rationale that she must be “exotic”.