Preparing to make a left turn into the parking garage this morning, I was opposed by a vehicle with a British flag vanity plate. “This is America, Jack,” I mumbled under my breath. That’s a phrase from my favorite movie Coming to America, that I normally quote when watching international sporting events. However, I say it pretty much every time I see something British. Rebellious American pride against the UK? Maybe; nevertheless, no harm intended.
Yielding the right-of-way, I allowed the proud vehicle to turn in front of me. Now I am forced to stare at a license plate uniquely spelling out the word “British”. Well the driver of this car wants it to be clear that they stand for their country no matter what. I don’t blame them though. I’d be proud too… But I have to see what they look like now. My curiosity is peaked.
I pull up next to the car, and it is not what I expected… At all. In the car was a lady whom I had always assumed to come from some part of Africa. I’m not a fan of stereotypes, but they are normally formed on some basis of truth. She’s an older lady with a beautiful deep carob skin tone, a broad nose and a large set of lips. She has dark deep-set eyes, long black dreadlocks, all atop a large, robust 5’11” or 6’ frame. She is an appealing woman with strong features that I am pretty sure are rooted in the Motherland Continent.
I try not to assume. It is a horrible habit to have. However, right now, I really want to know does her enthusiasm for labeling herself as British have anything to do with the way she looks. I’m not the most culturally versed person by a long shot and I will not try to be. Even so, I am aware that there is a large population of people of African descent in the United Kingdom, so I do not deny that she is from there. I am wondering would the assumption that I made (that she is from Africa) have anything to do with it. I believe I would be annoyed if people constantly asked if I was from Alabama because I looked like it. Maybe after enough of that I would walk around with only Georgia apparel on, even though I am extremely proud of my Alabama background. I would much rather that be the case than the other alternative I mapped out.
America has popularized a standard of beauty that, unfortunately, does not accommodate quite a few women. Whether it be because of size, complexion, facial structure or whatever else, some women may feel left out. It has not been until recent years that plus-sized women were as accepted as they are now, and I dare say that it is simply because of media highlights like Beyonce. This woman that I saw though, is plus-sized, dark-skinned, and has broad facial features that you would find hard to find on the typical model in America. Considering the fact that she is also older, means that she went through her younger years, when the more natural and cultured look was not as appreciated as it is now in the more liberal world of modeling and media. Could all of the British labels be to disassociate with stigmas linked African roots?
Now I’m not saying that either of these assumptions about her is true. It’s just that my brain runs a million miles a minute trying to figure out why some things are the way that they are; especially when it comes to issues like these. Little dark-skinned girls in America will have to face these issues, whether we ever realize it or not, and quite frankly, I hate it. They can grow up always feeling inadequate without anyone having to verbally say it, because the media will do most of it.
Another thing is that so many times we look at this issue of being one that only affects the female population. I am sure that females are more susceptible to it, but it affects guys too. Take me, for example; it took me until I was a full-grown adult until I was comfortable in my own skin. If I were to be completely honest, I’d say that I was twenty-four or twenty-five years old. Up until I learned to love who and what I was, I found every imperfection there was to find on me, and I shunned any compliments from nearly everybody. So I can personally attest to the fact that if you do not love yourself or what you are, it is impossible to believe that anyone else does.
The point that I’m making is that we all have to learn to be happy with who and what we are. It took me far too long to do learn it, but now that I do, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We have to be ever so careful to not let the media or others shape how we view ourselves. It gets harder and harder as time progresses, but as long as you have an open Perspective, you will be okay.