Colorism in my childhood.
“You look like Aunt Doll’- Family
Time with cousins growing up is some of the most memorable moments most of us have. I remember laughing and joking with my cousins growing up. All the stories and summers spent playing with my favorite cousins. I remember vividly recalling which family members looked alike, who was ugly, who was pretty and whose daddy didn’t have a job. The rules in my little area of life was that your skin color defined how pretty or ugly you were. Your skin color defined which family member you looked like, how desirable you were and how often you were clowned. Ya’ll ever heard phrases such as “you black honky donkey, you African booty scratcher, you black and ugly, you look like Flava Flav, you look like Ms Ceiley”, etc. Well, the phrase I heard most often followed by laughter was
“You look like Aunt Doll.”
Now Aunt Doll was our mean great aunt. She was my grandmother’s sister. She was quick tempered and a woman of god. She was dark skin, wore wigs and loved Soap Operas. My dad would drop me off at her house when I would get kicked out of elementary school for various mischievous behaviors(saved for another blog). I would watch soaps with her and my aunt Ira while watching their every move. I would wonder why people said I looked like her and laugh. She didn’t fit the standard image of beauty that appeared on the soaps. She was dark like me and apparently mean. I never considered her a beautiful woman because I didn’t look at myself as beautiful. I wasn’t innocent in all of this, because I joked with my cousins about who they looked like and their skin colors too. It was just standard ghetto ignorance.
My aunt Doll died some years later when I was in college or either high school. We would always talk about her as the years went by. We talked about the other aunts too; how aunt so and so was nice looking and aunt so and so was a drinker, and so on. But I never heard of Aunt Doll being described as nice looking or a beautiful woman.
Recently I organized a New Years family get together. I collected old pictures from people in my family in order to create a slideshow. I came across a picture of a young woman in a white dress that appeared to be from the 40s or 50s. She looked vaguely familiar but I was confused. My mind couldn’t quite let me accept who this young woman was. She was young, beautiful, elegant, sassy and confident. I sent the picture to my brother and sister with the caption “who is this?” My sister quickly responded back “that’s Aunt Doll.” I was both shocked, happy, confused and content at the same time. Aunt Doll was gorgeous. The lady in the picture did not fit the laughter and shame that was attached to “haha you look like Aunt Doll.” I was also embarrassed in myself that I was shocked that she was beautiful. A victim and perpetrator of colorism; I was forced to accept that about myself.
“Jenn Dayo” is a graduate of Georgia Southern University (GSU) and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). She received her bachelors degree in psychology from GSU and a MBA in global business from Georgia Tech. She is a retired (medical) Army Major, mental health advocate, and a self proclaimed “womanist.” Follow “Black Woman and Mental Health” Facebook page.