A Moment in Time – June 26th, 2019
June 25, 2019
Black Don’t Crack
Last Friday evening, I visited the bar in a posh restaurant in Corvallis,
Oregon. Someone’s ears just perked up because they heard the words
‘bar’ and ‘Friday evening,’ and you got nervous. Don’t panic and don’t
judge me. I was going to get a glass of water and it was a conference
dinner that ended before sunset… you should know, however, that I’ve
been able to engage in meaningful ministry in ‘bars’ on Friday nights in
the past. You should try it sometimes. But I digress.
Now that I have your attention: here’s what happened at the bar: the
college-age-looking white bartender said “what can I get for you, young
man,” as if he was ready to ask me for ID if I ordered anything but
water. As a border crossing brotha who studies issues of race, culture,
and identity, my eyebrows instantly raised. I asked him: “how old do
you think that I am?” He said: “probably 26 or 27.” I smiled, and said
with a smirk, “I am 40” and you probably won’t hear this in your circles
but in my community we say “Black don’t crack.” The bartender
laughed and confessed that he was actually 26 years old himself!
Now before some of you out there jump on the “black don’t crack”
bandwagon, I need to acknowledge the reality that many of us who
were born and raised in the 20 th century had a hard road to tread when
it comes to our complexion as people with dark skin—scholars refer to
this as colorism. Before the Wesley Snipes, Morris Chestnuts and Naomi
Campbells of the world rose to prominence (I am talking about pre-
Black Panther), few of us wanted to be dark skinned and few us were
excited about our tightly curled hair. Grounded in a problematic white
supremacist, colonial notion that the closer you were to white, the
closer you were to being right, the standard for beauty and
attractiveness in many black communities was “light skinned with
pretty hair.” When I left Bermuda for Oakwood, there was a tongue-
and-cheek expectation amongst my peers (as suggested by older
relatives) that light, long and local was the goal in our selection of
potential lady interests – light as in skin, long as in hair, and local as in
Bermudian. Problematic, I know.
As a border crossing brotha, I’ve taken the time to reflect on how our
decisions and expectations for self and others can be rooted in subtle
and not so subtle notions of self-hate. I know adults who were literally
given bleaching cream in their youth from older relatives to supposedly
lighten their skin, in the hopes that the young person would not have to
endure the teasing that the adult experienced because of their dark
skin. In pursuit of the brown skinned baby, you sometimes see a light
skinned person who typically dates a darker skinned person and vice
versa. Interesting, right?
In my book Border Crossing Brothas, Brandon describes his journey as a
dark-skinned Black male this way:
perspective. My father is from Bermuda and in the 70’s there was
still an overarching sort of distrust and disrespect for West
Indians. My mother actually raised us as Jamaicans living in
Bermuda which was a very Caribbean value system, but living in
the context of Bermuda…. My brother and I were very dark
skinned growing up in a culture where at the time dark skinned
black males were considered the sort of anti-type of what male
[good] looks were. So you had to endure the names of “black
spook,” “black ace of spades,” [and] “midnight.” You grew up with
a complex about being dark-skinned. I remember being at
[elementary] school and having to endure an unusual amount of
teasing about being Jamaican…And in my later life I didn’t realize
what impact that had on my self-esteem until I became a lot older
in terms of a lot of choices I made and how I viewed myself just
from being teased from young.
As I have matured, I have come to love dark skin. I love our hair, in all
its Nubian glory. I love the diversity of our people across the Diaspora.
But I haven’t forgotten the pain of what it feels like to not like what you
see when you look in the mirror. While “black don’t crack” as the saying
goes, I know what it is like to live with a broken sense of identity and
Today, whether you think you are fine or you hate your figure; whether
light, slight, or you’ve been trying to change what you see in the mirror
with all your might…red and yellow, black and white, know that you are
valued and valuable! And your value is not based on your appearance.
Don’t give up!
You are beautiful. You are handsome. The world needs what God has
placed inside of you. You are amazing. In fact, you are actually So
Amazing! And God made you just the way you are for His Glory and for
a witness to a world that needs to see what being a follower of Christ
looks like in your skin. Today, love the skin you’re in.
This is Dr. Ty Douglas, author of Border Crossing Brothas, and I want to
invite you to experience SALT—So Amazing Life Today; it’s available to
each of us, in Christ.
You can reach Dr. Ty at www.DrTyDouglas.org and follow him at @DrTyDouglas.
Link to purchase Border Crossing Brothas: https://www.amazon.com/Border-Crossing-«Brothas»-Navigating-Critical/dp/1433135388