‘Do you two have the same dad?’: What it’s like growing up as the darker sister
My sister is better than me – she’s also darker
Even though I’d deny this in a heartbeat if you asked, my older sister is better than me. She’s taller, prettier, smarter, stronger, and she actually has boobs. She cleans for fun, has better comebacks, and dresses like a J. Crew model. She even says terms like “niche community” in casual conversation.
She also has darker skin.
As a self-centered troll child, I never thought about how these shade discrepancies possibly affected our views on life. I was fortunate to not have any Tragic Racist Moments where I felt like I was being bullied because I was black. It wasn’t until college, when another girl who’d I’d gone to high school with mentioned how terribly she was treated for having darker skin, did I start to wonder about my sister. Did she grow up differently than I did? Was our hometown more racist than I realized?
This is what it's like growing up the darker sister.
Was there a moment where you realized your skin was darker than everyone else’s?
I’ve literally always known.
Did you feel like you were treated differently than me because your skin is darker than mine?
It was weird because I’m not even the darkest person, but I was the darkest where we lived, and that’s why people felt like they could say more things to me. The thing with being black is that you can’t hide it: it’s not like I could act like I wasn’t. I feel the same way even now. I’m tall, I have an afro — I can’t conceal my identity. In white spaces, everything about me is a statement. It’s not politicized, but it also is. I will always stand out.
Did anyone ever say anything during school?
In kindergarten, this girl told me she didn’t she didn’t like me because of the color of my skin. Mom drove back to the school after I told her what happened, but they didn’t do anything. They just told the girl to leave me alone; she never got in trouble.
Or, like, one time in high school, the teacher asked us a fact about a country in Africa or something. No one knew anything about geography because it’s a public school, but this was right after dad had taken us to see Last King of Scotland and I talked about that. And this girl was like “of course you’d know that; that’s where you’re from.”
People are ignorant.
There were a lot of microaggressions. One time this girl was complaining about how she bought eyeliner and it was too dark on her and how it was making her look so bad or whatever and her friend asked how dark it was and the girl just looked directly at me.
There was also a time later on in high school where they were nominating people for homecoming and they were like, "Let’s do something exciting to mix things up! We should nominate you!" like me being both black and on homecoming court was some kind of joke.
In middle school, people would ask me if we had the same dad. I didn’t know if they were asking because it was a general question they asked everyone, but it made me feel weird.
Oh, yeah, people are ignorant like that. It’s weird because now they’ll be like "oh, you all look so much alike in the face" or "you have the same tone of voice."
Did anything else happen in school?
I got singled out in fifth grade once for getting something out of my backpack. It was weird because everyone else was doing the same thing I was, but the teacher chose to single me out and just yell at me. I’d never gotten in trouble before until then.
And there was a time where we were doing this activity where you color in this groundhog. I gave mine a full highlight and contour and eyelashes and my teacher was like “interesting” in a dismissive voice, but the girl next to me (who was white) did the same thing and the teacher complimented her.
I've always admired how hard you've worked, but you never really got praised for it.
Not to be all Olivia Pope or whatever, but that thing about having to work three times as hard is true. In college, I held positions at three at the biggest, most important organizations on campus and never got any formal recognition for it. I was nominated for an award once, and it went to someone who’d done less work than I had.
What about guys? Do you think it’s harder to date and stuff because of your skin?
You just have to be super careful. There are men out there literally killing black women and no one does anything about it. Dating is just a hard realm to navigate; there are so many factors that go into it.
And it’s not just that, but there’s colorism within our own race as well. Like when Kodak Black said that he didn’t mess with dark-skinned women. I was like… I mean, Kodak Black looks like if Beaker from The Muppets got electrocuted. Don’t put that in your article because I don’t want for him to send his people after me, but it’s like, does he really think that he’s in a position where all of these women want to be with him anyway?
I read something that said “black women are in a position where they have to worry if men within their own race even like them.”
Kodak Black’s not even cute.
Do white guys ever say anything fetishizing towards you?
People saying stuff like that isn’t OK. Guys have said “I’ve always wanted to be with a black woman" or “I’m into exotic women" and so on, and other fetishizing and overtly-sexual comments.
Sometimes at parties guys would try and grab my hair or body or stuff like that. One time this guy tried to touch my hair and my friend reached out and physically slapped his hand away. I don’t hang around those places anymore, so it doesn’t happen now.
I really never thought of how our lives were different, and I can't definitively say that it's because of the color or my skin, but it's weird.
I think it's weird too, but it also just goes to show that you never entirely know what someone else is going through unless you've experienced it yourself.
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