John Fountain: Dear dark-skinned black child, embrace this truth

SHARE John Fountain: Dear dark-skinned black child, embrace this truth


Dear dark-skinned black child, you are sun-kissed. Made in the image of God. Formed by Him from the dust of the ground-shaped gloriously in muddy brown. Beauty in the Lord’s eyes and mine.

Embrace this truth to defy these lies: That your black beauty is somehow a curse. That the color of your skin diminishes your worth. That light skin is “in.” Or that charcoal magnificence is devalued skin.

You are dark-skinned beautiful. African daughters and sons of the original man. Melanin-infused by the Creator’s hand.

Consigned to dwell in a land of mass confusion. Where even black folks dwell beneath this cloud of delusion.


Where too many have drank from the bitter cup, eaten from the poisonous plate. Now see ourselves unclearly through the prism of the former slave master’s hate.

As monkeys. And apes. Three-fifths a human being. Dangling from the end of ropes — poplar tree swinging.

As Emmett Tills. Shot and killed by those who secretly envy, fear, cannot tame. Who dehumanize us with hurtful names.

Hundreds of years later, “we” now master the game. Detest the color of our own skin.

Brown-paper bag testing before “we” let “us” in. Color struck. Stuck on the texture of hair.

Shunning black nappy-ness. Coveting straightness and complexions fair.

Despising those whose African DNA glares in broad-nose prominence, thick-lipped dominance, dark-skinned opulence.

Chastising black boys and girls because their skin glistens in shades of black gold rather than as light-skinned pearls. Castigating because “they” happen to be a lighter shade of black. And some, like you and me, are deep dark coffee brown, like Mother Earth, from birth.

Both are beautiful.

Still, the ignorant cannot see. That by American hate we have been hoodwinked, deceived. That “they” may indeed be brighter, but, in truth, no whiter than you or me.

So among our own, the “light-skinned” Afro-stocracy exists in segregationist glory. Spits in the face of our triumph in the Jim Crow story. We draw the color line amongst our own. Assign a child to the “beauty” or “beast” class soon after he is born.

Brown tips at the fingers and ears, and coarse newborn hair some mothers still fear. For it can set the course of a child’s tears. Gradations in skin tone still separate among our own. Make us by dark skin prone to verbal attack. Not from whites but other blacks.

And this is the dark-skinned conundrum. To be rejected by members of one’s own race. To face the disgrace of being treated like a (N-word). Even by those whose blood and lighter black skin casts the same figure.

I know the pain of being called, “Ole, black John.” Have tasted the venom of that familial song. Been assaulted by myriad dark-skinned jokes from not insignificant black folks. Among their hurtful jests, that I was, “so black that if you turned out the lights, my skin would render me out of sight — except for my teeth and the whites of my eyes.”

I might be forever scarred if I had absorbed their hate and lies.

Except I came to embrace the truth about myself and also them: That they are, in reality, victims of self-hate — true slaves of this trans-generational fate designed to divide and conquer.

That our dark skin is not a curse, but a crown of glory.

That you and I are sun-kissed. And that this is our story: We were made in the image of God. Formed from the dust of the ground — shaped gloriously in muddy brown. Beauty in the Lord’s eyes and also mine.

Embrace this truth to defy the lies.


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