An article sent to Essence Magazine
Loving the Skin I’m In
I was torn, confused and twisted when I received the reactions from my black co-workers and many friends when I shared with them the cover of my new romance novel, entitled, “To Catch a Kitten”. I cringed at the remarks tossed at me like a ball of fire, ready to burn the skin from my hands, as if I were holding a hand full of hot grits! According to my sisters, the photo chosen by my publishing company wasn’t quote: Black enough”. Suddenly I felt a sick sense of isolation, disbelief and embarrassment, thinking that, maybe I wasn’t: Black enough-myself - upon realizing that the photo resembled, none other than traces of my self. I had described and then envisioned my main character- Kitten-looking actually like the young model on the cover and yet, because of my co-workers and friends and their dislike for the cover, I was feeling confused and ashamed. To add salt to my injury, I immediately emailed my editor and asked her if I could change the cover. I want the woman to appear more African-American and less Caucasian looking, is what I told her. She emailed me back and said that the girl on the cover was indeed, an African – American, much like the character I had described in my book. Upon feeling dazed and, not to mention, rather stunned- I thanked her and sat at my desk, looking rather wan. What the hell was I doing? I thought, I love this cover!
It was time for me to check myself. Suddenly I realized that most of my life I had been feeling a bit isolated and ashamed. I went to school with blacks through out my entire education and was often taunted and teased because I was extremely light - skinned. I had been trying to make up for the fact that I too, felt that I was not black enough -that is- on the outside, for indeed I was very black on the inside. I loved the taste of soul food: collard greens, Macaroni and cheese. I went to black shows, danced at black parties and read plenty of great black books. I have plenty of black girl friends and love my two black dark-skinned grand-daughters more than life itself. Then what was my problem? Like many of my darker - skinned sisters, I was uncomfortable in my skin, always thinking that I was just not good enough. I had heard so many stories of light-skinned sisters thinking that they were prettier or better than their darker –skinned sisters, and have all too often – run into some myself - that left me feeling even more ashamed as well as embarrassed for them. I was afraid to show any signs of liking myself and constantly feeling guilty if I dared thought that I was just a little bit pretty; not to mention the fact that, I had been raised by a light-skinned mother who constantly told me that my darker-skin sisters, would never care for me, no matter how kind I was towards them or how much I wanted to befriend them. Thankfully, I never believed that notion and it was good that I didn’t because I have many wonderful friends of all nationalities, today.
Today I am still striving to be the confident, light-skin black woman that I know myself to be. I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t struggling with the fact that I have to continue loving the skin that I’m in; but - like many people who come from all walks of life to live in our great nation, I have to learn to love what my higher power has given me and that is an appearance to be proud of, no matter what. I am extremely blessed to be a part of that semi - circle that is formed by the rainbow that projects the many shades of our heritage. I am also extremely delighted and happy with the cover of my new fiction entitled “To Catch a Kitten”; but I can’t help but to wonder about the young woman on its cover. I am often times wondering how the young, African-American woman, who looks very Caucasian, on the cover of my new fiction, feels. Surely: she has to be going through something.
Kathryn S. Carrington