Mikki Kendall

Dark Girls: A Movie We Should All See

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I grew up in a family where colorism ruled. My hair was permed at 3 because it was too nappy according to whichever aunt was caring for me that day. The kitchen beautician that did it used a super perm and gave me 2nd & 3rd degree chemical burns. At 3. I wore a weave until my hair grew back, and had it pressed until I was a teen when I promptly started getting relaxers again. My brief moment of rebellion? Going natural for a few months after a bad relaxer experience that left me bleeding.

My grandmother used to tell me to pinch my nose so I could give myself the “right” nose shape since my nose was spread all over my face. My aunt scrubbed the black off my cousin J with Comet one day. Yeah, I said the black. Shockingly my cousin didn’t stay that funny shape of pinkish brown after her skin grew back. I was the light one for a while which just made things tenser between me & the other children. Light was right, especially with a narrow nose, and straight hair. We all knew the family standard of beauty and we adhered to it or suffered the scorn of our elders.

I remember my mother punishing me for some infraction by refusing to let me get my hair done. She was a cruel bitch on a good day, and no one intervened even if they saw her punch me, unless she went too far. Too far in our family = not getting my hair straightened. Then all hell broke loose until she started sending me to the shop every two weeks like everyone else in the family. I was in my 30’s before I was comfortable enough with my own hair to wear it natural, and there are still times when I contemplate a relaxer despite everything I know about them and about beauty aesthetics. But then I look at all the women in my family who are balding after years of getting monthly relaxers and I get over it. Nothing about this video shocks me, but then my bio family was full of colorstruck middle class black folks and this is what happens when they pass on the cultural ingrained racism that passes for truth in their reality.

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