The Colonisation of Black Beauty

Society has a love-hate relationship with Black beauty, our features are ridiculed and heavily disrespected, but they are loved and alluring on other races; just as long as that race is not ours. Since birth, we are told that our noses, our lips, our melanated skin and our hair texture is less than and that we should aspire to have straightened hair, snatched and sleek noses and swirls of indigo in our eyes. Society is yet to reach a point where our beauty is wholly recognised and respected.

Colonialism brought upon and introduced the idea of a social hierarchy, and whiteness soon became an ideal at large. Western beauty standards were now the pinnacle point of beauty, it is at this point where beauty was in the hands of the coloniser. The ideology of whiteness being right is a construct just like race. It was made to assert control, dominance, and power over colonial subjects. Therefore, as a society, we need to think in terms of seeing ourselves in a way that does not take away our humanity, because that is what imperialism and colonialism did. And just because colonialism is in the past, does not mean its legacy — that is ingrained in our minds — ceases to exist.

We have been trained to believe that Western features are on top, and forced to believe they outshine non-white features. My flat buttoned nose, enlarged lips, sepia skin and jet black tresses are no match to current beauty standards according to society.

For many young Black girls, our hair is manipulated to conform to Western standards. We know the tickling feeling and pungent smell of hair relaxers. Our curls are slathered in chemicals that will help us fit into the narrowed hair standards. Straight hair should not be the apex of beauty, because quite frankly our minds have been tampered into believing that looser textures of hair are the epitome of beauty. Curls, coils and kinks are unique in their own way and should be valued as such. 

There has definitely been a shift in how Black hair is viewed today. Nowadays we see that there is a culture that boasts and embraces the array of Black hair textures. That widely being in the community itself, which is progressive as it encourages our people to unlearn the construct of whiteness being what we should aspire to. However, as a society collectively we are yet to see that at the same level. In our society, Black hair is still only held to a higher regard than it was before if the texture is looser, has a bouncy curl and perfectly coils when in contact with water. The love towards Black hair is unconditional. This is because Black women with tighter curls are still not widely represented when it comes to the face of Black hair. This goes to show that there is everlasting contempt towards Type four hair for instance. Black hair is still colonised because the Black hair that is accepted has close proximity to Eurocentric hair standards.

Black lips. See, society loves the prospect and allure of our features; just as long as it is not on us. I grew up believing the notion that my lips were “too big”, “enlarged” and “too dark” so much so that I would purposefully smile in a way that didn’t show the true size of my lips; in pursuit of aspiring to have smaller lips that resembled my white counterparts.

Although, nowadays society finds fuller lips as appealing as soon as fuller lips became a trend on non-Black people. But, Black lips have always been here, but their beauty is masked by disdain, unfortunately. 

Over the past few years, I have noticed that the features that black women have always had are being treated as a new aesthetic. When a celebrity adopts that facial feature. When I was younger, having bigger lips was unattractive and unsightly. 

In 2015, I noticed a monumental shift in the way larger lips were viewed, when Kylie Jenner got and acknowledged that she had lip fillers. In the wake of Kylie’s surgeries, society revised its attitudes towards bigger lips. Getting lip fillers and injections became normalised, and for the first time accepted by society as a recent wave of beauty. It wasn’t until someone who was not black got their lips done cosmetically to appear fuller that white people praised it as if it was new. Meanwhile, Black women have had full lips all along. For many of us Black women, we have grown up hearing that our features are overly large and masculine. Now with the emergence of cosmetic alterations, they are suddenly seen as alluring.

Black lips should be embraced on Black women for starters, society cannot continue to take away from our beauty. Black lips are not a trend.

“Darkie”, “shadow”,“pitch-black night sky” are some names that have been thrown at us Black people because of the colour of our skin. In essence, what is wrong with the colour of our skin? Think about it, who has taught society to believe that having a darker skin tone makes you less competent, less worthy and less worthy? It is a manufactured ideology because the idea of “race” is a construct. 

I love my sepia hue and I have learned to embrace it after liberating my mind of the damaging notion that I have to be “lighter” to love myself. Society is yet to do that for itself. Our minds have been trained to label and judge darker-skinned people as unworthy and judge them upon first look. 

In order to decolonise Black beauty, we have to aim to remove the standards that have been perpetuated by white society since birth. To make that happen, we have to educate ourselves on the construct of race. By this, I mean that we have to educate ourselves on how standards are conditional and that there is no right way to look– and whiteness is not the best option. We need to see value, beauty and worthiness in the alluring abundance of other cultures, races and ethnicities. As a society, we must stop subconsciously preferring and treating whiteness with such glory.

Art credits: Asia R, @rey.illustration on Instagram

One response to “The Colonisation of Black Beauty”

  1. Alisha Mirza says:

    Eurocentrism is not it. I just wish we didn’t have to unlearn the belief that we have to strive for white features.

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