When I was about 19 years old, I was sitting outside at my college campus, with a sorta-friend that I met from one of my classes that I mostly skipped. I didn’t know him very well, but we’d sit and have small talk over Cuban bread and coffee. After talking about god-knows-what-kind-of-small talk, with a smile, he said:
“You are very pretty for a black girl.”
I sat quietly for a few, long seconds. “Thanks for the backhanded compliment?” “What do you mean?” “Why did you say I am pretty ...for a black girl? Why can’t I just be pretty?” “Because I don't think black girls are pretty. But you’re different --” “You're stupid,” I whipped angrily.
I then packed my things and left the table. Yeah, that was the way I handled social issues at 19-years-old. I’m 27 years old now -- some things haven’t changed. Okay, so maybe now I try to have an effective dialogue. (>_>)
Let’s discuss why this “compliment” was actually an insult:
When you tell me I am pretty for a black girl, you're telling me that black people aren’t beautiful, but I am the exception. Being the exception to a rule or standard doesn't make an insult a compliment. In America, and sometimes internationally, white is the conventional form of beauty. It sets the standard and tone; it is the default. Beauty has always been a difficult thing to trudge through in the black community for black women. We're highly sexualized. We're exotic. We're a conquest to be made, but never the bride-to-be. We're "ghetto," "ratchet," "animals," "monkeys" or even "gorilla-faced." Beauty for black women is a tip-toe event. We're consciously scrutinized by our hair, the melanin in our skin, our speech, our bodies, if our asses are too fat, or if our bodies are too thin, if our noses are too flat, or if our lips are too plump. Sometimes we're too much, but at the same time, we're just not enough. Meeting the standards of beauty can be really fucking exhausting. "Telling someone that they are attractive "for" their race goes deep; it affirms a belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with being a person of color and further perpetuates the notion that they are racial others — especially because white women can be regarded as pretty simply for being white." (popsugar)
I am black.
I am Latina.
And I am beautiful.
Want to give a black woman a compliment?