Ode to Tameka Raymond: Regular Black Girls Rock
On our commute to Catlett, Virginia this weekend, 4th Roomy and I were flipping radio stations and we heard something interesting. Ebony Steele, of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show, had a sound bite played to advertise the show. During the bit, she showed her disgust regarding backlash over Tameka Raymond during she and Usher’s ugly custody hearing. Unlike a lot of other media outlets, really focusing on the ins and outs of their messy public custody hearing and divorce, she voiced concern over the backlash that Tameka ALWAYS receives over her appearance.
She discussed how Tameka was a “regular black girl”, just like she was, and to hear and see all the outrage over Usher ever dating, marrying and having children with her based on her appearance really hurt her. She talked about how she is self aware, and even though she doesn’t think she is the prettiest woman in the world, she thinks she is attractive and BLACK. She said as black people, especially women, we have to overcome so much as is, but it was hurtful to know that other “regular black girls” were down on Tameka Raymond, who looked just like them. We have come to expect light skinned, Latina, biracial, wavy headed women with our well off, famous men, and she expressed intense sadness over that fact. I have to say, this rang true to me. Age scrutiny played a part in Tameka Raymond disdain, but I often hear and see her referred to as ugly. She could be my aunt though. Or sister, cousin, or even my (had me very young) mother. She looks like a black woman to me. And, I think she’s pretty. High cheekbones, dimples, a cute nose? Really nice brown skin? Don’t really see anything wrong with her. Usher didn’t receive ANY public backlash for dating baby hair plastered to her forehead Chili, of TLC fame, age or otherwise. And SHE resembles a rodent to me. Yep. She does. But she got a pass for that “Indian in her family”. Meh.
Anyway, it got me to thinking really. I have been putting together a post recently about interracial marriage and how I think it does and does not affect me, as a black woman, and this really ended up hitting closer to home, because it’s a subject that I not only relate to, but feel intense hurt about. As a people, we glorify a European standard of beauty. Even now, as we are in the thick of a natural hair movement, all I see are loosely curly headed, likely biracial women advertising our products. I don’t prefer MY hair natural (even though it is) but I CONSTANTLY get advice on how to ‘stretch’, loosen, and de-frizz my very tightly coiled hair. Do we really love our natural hair, or are we just looking for a way to have hair that looks ‘exotic’, not African? On twitter, almost daily, some man is glorifying an picture of some light skinned woman and downing ‘dark skinned chicks’. We buy Indian hair in bulk to make our hair look like something very few of us could grow on our own. And yes, we DO expect our black, affluent males to be with women who don’t necessarily look like all of us, because if he made it, he can prefer and pick whoever he wants, so why would he pick regular old us?
To me, that’s an issue. My Blackness was once a struggle for me. I grew up very close to my family, and my 3 closest female cousins growing up were all “exotic” looking. Two of them had one white and one black parent, and the other had a very fair skinned grandmother, and very long, naturally wavy hair. I was the regular black girl. I didn’t have NO hair, but my hair definitely wasn’t naturally growing past my shoulders like theirs. I was plain brown, nothing special or so I felt, and often cried to my own mother about how I wasn’t beautiful or special like them. My mother, of course, did the motherly thing and really consoled me, but my angst continued. Later, I had adequacy issues with my younger sister, who was blonde with blue gray eyes. Our mothers are completely different shades, mine obviously being the darker one, which made for caramel skin for me, but cream colored skin and vibrant, striking features for her. Then in high school, I was the darkest of my group of female friends. People referred to them as The Yellow Girls Club, or the Saffron Patch and joked that I just barely had made it in because you had to pass the paper bag test to hang out with them. And this was in the early 2000’s. I grew up watching other girls get chosen first by men, based on what I thought was a standard of beauty, I didn’t fit into. And it hurt me.
One day, many years later, I realized that most of the insecurities I was carrying showed. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, or with myself, and a lot of the reasons I felt I was inadequate probably contributed to confidence issues. I was very comfortable with my BODY, but not my face and hair and features. I knew I had a good personality, and a good body, so my comfort level was based on that. I shortchanged myself A LOT thinking that way. I shed the insecurities I had about my skin color, my hair texture, and the way I looked as a whole on a car ride to Babies’R’Us with my aunt. I was telling her how I was worried about dating now that I had children, and how I wasn’t the prettiest woman in the world and since now I had the twins; it might make it harder for me to find someone. My aunt literally stopped the car on me to tell me I was gorgeous. Regardless of what I thought of as ‘regular brown’ skin, or my short bob that never quite made it to my shoulders, people thought I was absolutely beautiful. Without a word from my mouth, I got compliments on my looks. We were living in a small town, and she said it was amazing how many people told her what a pretty young woman I was all the time. She even said it was only right for her to tell me because even though I had probably heard it from my mother, she didn’t have to say it, because she was only my aunt. Ha. That small, eye opening talk, coupled with a new inner and outer beauty that I found in myself after childbirth, and here I am at 28, really comfortable with myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a woman. I still worry if pants make my butt look big, but I don’t think about being less than because I don’t have “good hair” or cream colored skin. It disturbs me that some of us haven’t found that peace, and beauty in ourselves as is…so we see a man we admire finding beauty in us and we criticize. I know this post was long, and I appreciate anyone who stuck with me through it until the end. I just hope that one day, I don’t have to address this issue or share these kinds of stories, because regular black girls like me will be considered universally beautiful, too.Tags: Black, black is beautiful, custody, girl, regular, regular black girl, Tameka Raymond, Usher