Over the past few evenings, I’ve been using this writing group of about 20K writers to help me reach resolutions as I’m editing. Yes, this group is as amazing as it sounds. I was thanking God that I’d found them. So when I started to write a scene with a dark skinned woman, I wanted to use an uncommon beautiful description. As a result, I went to my favorite group and asked, what are some beautiful things I can use to describe dark skin.
Initially, the writers used all the words I could imagine. Chocolate, cinnamon, mocha, ebony, coffee and so on.
Then a white women posted, “POC hate being described with food.”
A male POC, said he refers to himself as caramel and is giving me permission to refer to all people of color by food. Which I accepted laughing and in good spirits.
The white woman actually went to war with him, saying that he can’t give permission for all people of color.
Of course he can, he shot back, because he’s arrogant like that…
I thought the conversation was funny, until another white woman came on the post and said just say they are dark skinned and move on. Then followed that comment with, skin color couldn’t be that important to the plot and then questioned my ability to write.
At this point I’m frustrated and kind of lost. One, I don’t understand how a request for other descriptive words becomes all these long diatribes from white people on how to treat black people. Especially since I’m a black person.
Second, someone has of course and which I always expect in a group this large… said I can use steaming excrement or shit to describe the person. It’s so expected it goes almost unnoticed. I must admit I’m a little sad that someone thought it was ok to describe someone’s skin as such… when I specifically asked for beautiful things and words. I think it’s racist. But he goes on commenting on the rest of the discussion as if he isn’t racist.
Some how I began defending my need to discuss color. I am then asked by one of the white women, because my profile picture is a poem not a photo, if I’m black? I mean, now they are all posed to call me a white racist for wanting to describe a dark skinned person beautifully.
In the process, I am being thrown websites. If White Characters Were Described Like People of Color In Literature
I thought the link was funny, but also irrelevant. Showing me how it’s bad to describe white people as food to validate not describing black people’s skin tones is like… advising me to eat the seeds out of an apple the way I would a pomegranate. Yeah, they are both fruit… and most apples are red.. But there are green apples, yellow apples and candy apples. You couldn’t candy an entire pomegranate… I guess you could, but it’d be nasty.
My point is, because white skin is the standard of beauty more options to describe it exist. When I go look for make-up, the make-up marketed towards black women is: almond, roasted almond, deep caramel, honey, golden honey… while the make-up pitched at white women is tan, nude, tawny, beige, deep beige. I mean, nude is not the color of my skin naked. My point being… What is my point? That I simply asked for writers to give me some uncommon descriptive words to describe dark skin and then had to defend why I even needed to mention skin.
Oh, and then people started to go into how skin isn’t important. How it isn’t necessary to discuss what hue a person is. For some reason, I feel like writing characters without descriptions is a form of erasing difference. I think difference is beautiful. I think people are beautiful in all the ways they are. I don’t think pretending or writing everyone as invisible and minimizing each other’s features makes for better writing. I also think it’s privilege not to understand how skin tone affects POC. I think it is privilege not to know about colorism. I also think it’s ignorance that would say, race and color doesn’t matter as we march, protest and riot as black people are killed. Black lives matter wouldn’t even be a slogan if skin didn’t matter.
Someone said, you shouldn’t mention skin if it doesn’t have anything to do with your plot. If you are a POC in America your skin is how the plot thickens. Whether you are rich and driving in your own neighborhood, the police pull you over because to them your skin says you don’t belong. If you are in a crowded store, the clerk watches you because to them your skin tells them you are most likely to steal. When you are articulate, accomplished and confident people are amazed. Because they think people with your skin shouldn’t be able to speak proper English or know the things you know. Sometimes people are offended, intimidated and afraid when you are intelligent because they expect you to bow, shuck and jive because of your skin. When you go in for a job they will offer you less money and be put off if you ask for what you deserve. They may even not hire you, because your skin tells them you are not worth what they would pay your white counter part. Race and skin color are still very much an issue. I’m annoyed that so many people wanted to argue it wasn’t and that I should write omitting skin.
I needed to get all this off my chest. I don’t have any anecdotes. I am really upset how uninformed people are. More importantly, how arrogant and sure they can be in their lack of wisdom. I always have higher expectations for other writers and artists in general. I always felt writing and regularly being creative is such a spiritual thing it requires you to be more mindful. I expect us as artist to sit with our stuff more. I was really hurt, I guess by the responses. I mean, I was insulted and attacked for not wanting to be invisible. Can you imagine, someone telling you it is not important to see yourself in your own work? It’s just crazy.
I did receive some really great descriptive words and a website I’m going to explore after I post this blog.
Love and Light
PS: Oh and if there were some errors, spelling or otherwise, I treat this blog as my journal. I am not critical of how it is I express whatever is on my heart.