I’d be interested in an article about going gray by just about any Black woman, so finding the awesome Rebecca Carroll is writing about just that (“Going Gray Is a Revelation,” published at TheZoeReport”) is a real treat. Carroll is 52, and her gray hair “has only just started to come in around my face over the past year or two, and I love it.”
after the recent loss of actor Michael K. Williams, I found myself deeply moved by a quote of his that resurfaced amid the myriad messages of appreciation and mourning that circulated on social media after his death. In an interview for Men’s Health, he said: “I spent a lot of my younger years not feeling beautiful. When I look back at my pictures now as a kid, I’m like, ‘Damn, you were actually beautiful.’ I couldn’t see it back then.”
I already knew I was going to write this piece before Williams died, but this quote reminded me of my context. Because there’s beauty, and then there’s us. By us, I mean Black folks — we who have never been factored into the “real” standard of beauty in America, the white standard of beauty. Many of us search for any reflection of ourselves in our surroundings, particularly during our youths, much less a reflection or representation of ourselves that is deemed beautiful. And for a lot of Black girls and gay Black boys (Williams was gay) this lack of reflection hits in an especially poignant way. In America, Black girls are too often hyper-sexualized, while gay Black boys are de-sexualized or erased altogether, when often all we want is to see ourselves presented as beautiful. We simultaneously ache for the validation, and feel ashamed for wanting it.
I am 100% clear that being fat is not being Black. That being said, this passage will likely strike a chord with adults of all races who were fat kids. I certainly have the experience of looking at pictures of my young self and seeing beauty I didn’t know was there, as well the experience of looking hopelessly for images of myself, let alone ones that spoke of beauty. I also know that the fat Black girls (and the fat Black boys) face a much higher barrier to finding their own beauty than I ever did.
Carroll’s short article continues in her lyrical, searingly truthful style:
I actually really like getting older. Although, doing so while also navigating the current generation’s insistence on one’s own hotness, in every way, on every possible media platform, is an increasingly ambitious endeavor. Still, along with the profound solace of mercifully depleted f*cks to give, comes a deeply intimate, unrestrained sense of beauty — your own, and all that is in and around you. It’s less a feeling of who or what is beautiful, and more of a revelation. Indeed, as the late Toni Morrison once said, “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”
On one level, I wish she had written more, and in the end, I deeply appreciate that she said what she wanted to say, said it clearly, invoked Michael K. Williams and Toni Morrison (both iconic figures) and then stopped when she was done.
This article is for everyone, and it is especially for Black women and gay Black men. I hope it gets in front of as many of those folks’ eyes as possible. Thank you, Ms. Carroll!
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