Do you know what its like to hate your skin, not because its dry, not because it has a rash, not because you have acne…but because its dark? As a child, I’ve always been aware of that fact that being dark skin meant you were less attractive, ugly, stupid, and anything that was negative…but for some odd reason I myself, was never teased or talked about for being dark skin. I’m not sure why exactly, because I was usually ALWAYS the darkest person. I believe the reason I was never teased or bullied about my skin throughout my school years was because I was very quiet and isolated myself at all cost so nobody could say or do anything to me…but I also recall people not saying or doing anything at all and still being talked about.

My dark skin friends were teased and bullied, and if it wasn’t them it was someone else at school. The girls were talked about way more than the boys were, but the boys were far from exempt. I know people who literally didn’t want to go to school because they couldn’t avoid being the center of negative attention just because of their skin.

I have been called names before, jokes have been made towards me as well…but it was never on the same intense level that I witnessed others endure. There was only one time in my whole life, I hated my skin because it was dark.

At his point in my life, I was in my detox/relapse/depressed phase (if that even makes snese.) I was easily angered as well offended by the simplest of things. Like seriously, a piece of lint could cause me to flip out if it fell on me. This was my second year at the charter school I was attending. The interesting thing about the school I attended happened to have the most black male teachers I ever seen at once. Actually, it was the most black men I saw with a job in one establishment. During this time of my life I hated black men/boys and didn’t trust them except for a very select few. I knew I was going to have to kill one sooner or later before one of them killed me, but I had a chance to observe my teachers so they weren’t considered a threat to me, so I had no animosity towards them.

One day, it was decided to take us all on a college trip, to black colleges to be exact. Instead of us taking a bus or van, the teachers actually drove their cars, so space was limited. So me and my girlfriend at the time were looking for a teacher to ride with. We found a teacher with space in the car, but when I saw who was already sitting in the backseat I was hesitant…It was a light skin boy. I had various reasons as to why I disliked black men, and if you were light skin that was a strike against you.

Me and my friends would always talk about how light skin men were shown favor in all types of situations and being considered better looking…but the boy that was sitting in the backseat bothered me for a completely different reason though. I perceived light skin men and boys to be attention seeking and self centered…but him, he was quiet and didn’t bother anyone. He was a legit quiet person. He wasn’t some “I had a bad day so I’m not going to talk for now” fake wanna be quiet person, he was a “sit in the same spot every day by myself in the corner” type quiet.

Me, my girlfriend, and my friends all separated ourselves from the kids we considered chaotic. So we would sit in the lunch room all day while all the other kids were in the classroom. He sat in the lunchroom with us as well. It would even be times I forgot he was in the room, which bothered me because he was able to escape my radar. He was more of a threat to me because one, he was not what my perception told me every light skin male was, and two…I was bothered by the fact I had no idea who he was. He was just as good at hiding himself as I was. Honestly…he was better than me at hiding. I couldn’t categorize him. All of these things went through my head before we sat in the car.

As me and my girlfriend walked towards the car, my jealous ass sped walked and got in before her so I could sit in the middle. I thought to myself ” Ay bro, In this small car, get ready to feel my man thighs on yours because you ain’t feeling her’s bruh…” And that’s how it was. Man thigh to man thigh. He didn’t even look at me, he just kept looking out the window. That made me very mad, but I knew me being in the middle would keep him away from my girlfriend. So I didn’t think anything else of him. On the ride all of my attention was towards my girlfriend and nothing else. I started getting tired and started dozing off periodically. I remember I was in the middle of drifting to sleep, and we pulled up to the gas station.

My teacher said we can get out and use the bathroom or stretch. I was still kind of sleepy so I just sat there looking out the window towards my girlfriend, but I felt myself fall over a little bit while the door opened on the opposite side. I forgot he was in the car. I woke up so quick because I was mad that he once again escaped my radar, while he was sitting RIGHT next to me. To make it worse, I was leaning on him. I began internally battling myself about how I forgot he was there and why he didn’t tell me to get off him. At that point I was in full alert mode. I started thinking “Was he looking at my girl while I was sleep? Was that his plan? What kind of man will let another man fall asleep on him?”

…That’s when I came to the realization that I knew why I couldn’t read him…

Why he was more quiet than me…

Why he wouldn’t look me in the face…

Why he didn’t care my man thigh was on his…

And why he didn’t say anything about me laying up against him…

…He HAD to be gay.

After a few minutes he sat back in the car, and as soon as he did my whole philosophy on him being gay went away. I started thinking “…Maybe that’s his way of tricking dark skin men into thinking hes gay so they wont see him as a threat around their girlfriends.” I became twice as more bothered by him now…because I honestly still had no idea who he was.As difficult as it was, I ignored him the rest of the ride because I couldn’t take his ability to be mysterious.

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So we make it to Central State University and everyone is grouping up so we can begin our college tour. We begin walking around the school and as were walking we began seeing college students walking past or simply just hanging around campus. Every single time a girl walked past us, all the boys would start staring and saying to each other how good she looked, and the girls were doing the same thing when they guys walked passed.

My insecurity level was at an all time high and it all transferred to my hand that was holding my girlfriends hand. I never held her hand so damn tight. I probably cut off her blood circulation that day. We kept walking, and it kept happening.

It got to the point my girlfriend was a little bit ahead of me with the girls while I was a little bit behind with the guys. It was a dark skin guy that walked past and he got a response from all the girls in the group. It was a girl that said he wasn’t that cute. All the girls asked her why, and she said ” Ugh, I don’t like dark skin guys.”

My girlfriend didn’t even do anything nor was she even paying any attention to the guys walking past, but the fact she was next to the girl that said that, for some reason I felt like she agreed with it. I was mad at her for something she didn’t even say or do. It was very hard to explain why I became bothered by that girl saying she didn’t like dark skin men. Her words kept repeating in my head. Right in front of me she said “Ugh, I don’t like dark skin men.”

…Those words made me feel so filthy and ugly. That was the first time I ever lifted my arm up and looked at it to see how dark I actually was. I looked around and noticed my skin was darker than everyone else’s in the group. I started thinking not only my girlfriend, but everyone else felt the same way but just didn’t want to say it out loud. At that point I shut down, zoned out but kept walking and became whats best described a “conscious zombie.”

I became conscious of every one that made eye contact with me while we were walking around. I knew inside their heads they were saying I was ugly and black. I was trying to disappear but I couldn’t. I was constantly on display for everybody to stare at. We walked in this room that had a big painting in it. I was happy that everyone looked at the painting because it was keeping all eyes from staring at me. I looked at it myself, it was idolizing black people. It had black men and women in it, most of them were dark skin. My first thought was “…I hate black men so this painting is beyond worthless to me.” My next thought was, “Nobody likes it anyway because of all the dark skin people in it.” It was highly ironic that the day I became fully aware of how much I hated being dark skin, we were at an black college.

The teachers planned to have a cookout for the students, then after that we were going to go back home. We all began grouping together in the shade waiting for the food. I wasn’t talking to anyone at the time, not even my girlfriend. It wasn’t rare this happened, I always got mad at her over simple stuff and stopped talking. I didn’t want anyone to talk about my dark skin and I knew if I got in line to get food, I’d be in front of everyone, so I went to a tree by myself and stayed there.

As I was looking around, I saw the light skin boy we rode up to the college with, standing by his self…under a tree. He was getting on my nerves, doing EXACTLY what I was doing. I was supposed to be the only quiet mysterious black guy around. After a few seconds, I lost my animosity towards him…I remembered I was dark skin and he wasn’t. When I thought things couldn’t get worse, the worse thing happened. My girlfriend walked up to him and talked to him. I KNEW it was because I was dark skin. Whatever she said made him shake his head no and blow her off. That moment confirmed everything that I said about light skin boys and how they had favor and how women liked them more. I’m thinking, “Here we both are standing under tree’s, looking all lonely, and you gonna go over to Mr. Light skin right skin…over your own boyfriend???”

Now…honestly as much as I wanted her to talk to me, I was ignoring her at the moment. So her not talking to me was my fault, and I knew she was just asking him if he was ok. She was a very caring individual who would look out for anyone and make sure they were fine, but with all the parallels lining up at the moment, that was very hard for me to see. I was mentally paralyzed and couldn’t alter my thought process. To be dark skin was the worst thing anyone could ever be on the planet.

It came time for us to head back to the school, It was awkward. Before we got in the car I was thinking to myself, “I’m mad at my girlfriend so I want to be away from her, and Mr. Lightbright really struck a nerve when he tried to stand under the tree like me. The silent isolated act was reserved for me and me only, and he outdid me…AND took my girl from me.”

For a brief moment I thought “…Since they are so fond of each other, I should let them sit next to each other.” When he got in the car…I sped walked to the car and sat in the middle again. So…I’m sitting in the middle of my girlfriend and a light skin dude, mad at both of them and neither one of them did anything to me. While I was mad at both of them, I looked around to see if I was the darkest person in the car…to see that I was. That moment the feeling of insignificance assisted my insecurity towards my relationship, as well my intense hatred towards a boy I didn’t even know. All I could do was zone out again.

We got back to the the school, he gets out the car, gets in his car and drives away. He didn’t say bye to anyone, he just left. He was really pissing me off. Only I was supposed to leave people and not say bye. Everyone else walked back in the school.

Me and my girlfriend ended alone for a second, and she said the same words I always caused her to say “Whats wrong?”

I said, “Your friend said she don’t like dark skin guys.” She looked at me with a confused/are you serious face. When I finally said it out loud, I realized about 10 different things wrong with the statement I just made. I just told my girlfriend, that I was mad, because her FRIEND, doesn’t like dark skin men. She said, “If I didn’t like dark skin guys I wouldn’t be with you…” When she said that I snapped out of it and was instantly over it. I began to think to myself how I had the girl I wanted to be with, that made me happy, but I was more concerned with someone else’s opinion.

I can look back today and see how funny and stupid of me it was to feel that way, but I just thought about how bad it felt just hearing someone say they didn’t like dark skin. My dark skin experience actually had nothing to do with being teased or talked about directly, It was more so rooted in my own insecurity. For that brief couple of hours I was very in tune with what it felt like to be “dark skin.” That was the most exposed I ever felt in my life. I was a very internal person which gave me the ability to hide my feelings and emotions inside where no one could see it. My skin was something that was external and visible to all. There was no way to escape that.

Not long after the college trip one day, I’m standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus to come. A car drives past me and it stops in the middle of the street. I see the person waving their hand, looking like they were telling me to come on. I stood there, wondering if they were even talking to me. The car backed up and the passenger side revealed who it it was. It was him…Mr. Lightbright. He tilted his head and did the “c’mon” gesture with his hand. I actually got in the car.

I started to think “Wait, this is his chance to get me.”  The only thing I could think of was to defend myself before it gets to the point we have to kill each other. I thought about grabbing the steering wheel so we could get in a accident. I didn’t care if I hurt myself, as long as I hurt him. I thought about pushing his head through the window. I carried a knife at the time, I thought about stabbing him in the neck. I remembered he was one of the black men I just knew there was a possibility I would die if I didn’t kill him first. My heart started racing and I kept my hand on my knife just in case he pulled a gun out or tried to take me somewhere to get jumped. I zoned out and got into full alert mode remembering I knew I wasn’t supposed to trust black men but I got in the car anyway.

We pull up to the school, he parked the car… and we got out the car and walked in the building. He didn’t even look into his car to see if I stole something out of it, nor did he look back to see if I was going to try and attack him from behind. I just kept following behind him. We walked into the school, past the office, past the classroom, to the lunchroom. He sat in his same spot, with his same silence.

I don’t know if he was ignoring me, if I scared him, if he was as paranoid as me, If i was a nobody to him, if he was gay…I didn’t know who he was, but one thing I recognized after all of that…What separated me and him from one another was that he obviously was comfortable in his own “skin.” That was the moment I realized all light skin boys and men weren’t loud or attention seeking and it was my own perception that was driving me to believe that.

Now, as bad as it felt for me to be dark skin, once again, my brief moment is not even close to what I’ve witnessed other dark skin people become subject to. Those moments were the most paranoid and self conscious I ever was in my life.

I remember looking at everyone single person’s skin comparing mines to theirs.

I remember not wanting to go near anyone because I knew what they were saying about my skin.

I remember not wanting to even get in line to feed myself because it would of given people the opportunity to look at me.

I remember not being able to enjoy a trip because all I could think about was how dark I was.

That was just a portion of one day…I can only imagine what it feels like for the people who have to go through that their whole lifetime.

By Donte Woods-Spikes

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