Jadesola James | From on High: Drinking in the hot sun, dark skin and all

PITTSFIELD — All of my favorite memories involve the sun shining. Now that we have had our first day above 90 degrees in the Berkshires, I can only anticipate all the sun-soaked memories I will create this summer. As someone who thrives in a warm and welcoming climate, it is difficult to remember times when I used to run from the sun.

In Western civilization, light skin is the highest standard of beauty. Whether or not you may agree, it cannot be denied that there has always been more light skin representation in the United States.

During the parts of my childhood I spent in South America, children ran freely in the sunlight and did not fear the darkening of their complexion. I was perplexed when, in my American middle school, my black friends chastised me for spending too much time in the sun during recess.

"Come stand in the shade, Jad ! You're dark enough as it is." I wanted to feel the kiss of the sun, the way it warms one up from the inside out like a croissant baking slowly in the oven. However, I came to accept that this was a privilege only my white friends could bask in, as the sun would only tint them slightly.

The demonization of dark skin became a part of my psyche, as it does for many black people. I would adamantly turn down invitations from my white friends to go lay in the sun, while wishing that I wasn't already a deep shade of brown. I watched in amusement as my black male friends covered themselves in towels on the beach when they didn't have umbrellas, only emerging to take a quick picture in the water to make it seem like they spent all day in the sun.

I internalized the portrayal of dark hues in the media, how the villain of a film was always shrouded in darkness. As a fan of runway shows, I realized that it was rare to see more than one dark-skinned model walking. One day, I was borrowing my Nigerian friend's laptop and noticed that she had left a tab open, an Amazon page for a skin bleaching cream.

The beauty standards set in any society become extremely damaging when they leave no room for those who are the exact opposite. For six years of my life, I truly believed that I wasn't beautiful. Dark-skinned individuals of any race must embark on a challenging journey in order to achieve self-love without doubt.

Though my self-worth has grown immensely over the years, there are moments that I catch myself thinking, "I look too dark in this photo."

In my lifetime, dark skin will likely never be the standard of beauty. Under these circumstances, black and brown people in the U.S. and around the world must immerse themselves in the rich history and culture that follows their rich complexion. Enrich your friends, and dispel the lie that society has forced upon them. Melanin pops, and never more so than under the glow of the sun.

Though I am not a meteorologist, something tells me that the sun will be shining more and more in the coming weeks. Occasionally when I brush past a flower bush and the sun hits my shoulder in the right spot, I remember moments from my childhood.

Running freely, loving the sun just as much as I thought it loved me, I remind myself that nothing truly bad could ever feel so good. This afternoon, I look forward to lying outside and warming from the inside out just like a croissant.

Jadesola James is an intern at Multicultural BRIDGE and a senior at Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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