The worse thing about the Dove advertisement is that I once wanted to be white. I wanted to take my blackness off and exchange it for whiteness, long hair and thinness – all synonymous with privilege.
It was 3rd grade. My black friends had long thick hair and my hair, even though I started getting a perm at 4, has always wanted to revert back to it’s natural state. My back has always had that arch, my butt has had that shelf, and my neck has had the propensity to roll at the slightest provocation. In third grade I wanted to be white. Whiteness was everywhere, and I never saw representations of me. The only person on television who resembled me was Nell Carter from Gimme a Break. And although I can appreciate her journey as an actress, I detested being compared to her at the time.
This is why the Dove Ad cuts so deep. It is a representation of what American Society has tried to do to Black Women since the slave ship: erase our existence. This is why a big butt, full lips and braids are ghetto on a black girl but trendy on a J. Lo or a Kardashian. We have seen our history erased in books, our kinky natural hair erased by perms and our culture appropriated and accepted by the very people that devalue our worth. Dove struck a nerve. And no public relations campaigns will fix the pain that we feel in our collective psyche.
On behalf of the generations of black women who were denied entrance because they were darker than a paper bag; on behalf of every black women who grew up feeling ugly (like my beautiful, regal, Granny who thought she was just a little too dark); for every little girl who was teased because she was “too”: too fat, too skinny, too dark, too light, too ghetto, too bougie, too loud, too shy… Tonight I raise my glass. Like the phoenix we will rise. We will watch the myriad of representations of ourselves from LHH to Blackish, Queen Sugar, OWN, we are here. And we will not erased. We will not be silenced. We will not be whitewashed. We will love the skin we are in. And we are perfect the way we are! For I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)!