As a young, Black, female teacher, Valencia Clay is presumably hip to the influence she holds over her students in Baltimore, Maryland. In January, she used this sway to help a student shed insecurities stemming from colorism’s hold over the Black community.
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She visibly fights to cloak her pain when she refers to herself as the black, ugly girl… but when she is showered with love, she can't take it at all. This is the result of slavery, institutional racism, systematic oppression, media bias, and a dominant narrative that our beauty is in fact, not beauty at all, unless it measures up to neo-exotic or Eurocentric standards. While some aspects of the web of racism are more concealed, colorism is overt. We don't even need an overseer or a minstrel show to persuade us to believe farcical notions about our complexions anymore; we are highly effective at normalizing it for ourselves. Just look at trending hashtags such as "team light skin" and "team dark skin" which currently have a combined total of almost 700k posts. This pattern of self-hatred is coveted like an heirloom, gifted by those that disenfranchised our #culture. Many of us, who are aware of color casting, rebel against such antics and are unapologetically proud of who we are. We embrace every shade of black and brown from ivory to caramel, to sepia and maple, to mahogany and oak, to ebony and onyx. We find no need to note differences between our complexions, unless it's a compliment. We walk with our heads held high. For those that I am describing, I salute you and ask that you begin to take a look around: are people still perpetuating colorism in your circle of friends, in your family, on your timeline? Exactly. There's work to UNDO because these deeply rooted seeds of hate are still flourishing among our culture. We are not free if everybody is not free. Mental bondage is the deadliest of all.
In the above video, a young woman reveals her painful experiences with being deemed unattractive and feeling inferior to lighter-skinned peers.
“I thought light-skinned girls were prettier because I was always the Black, ugly girl,” the student said. “You can look at all the lighter-skinned complexions and everybody’s in love with them and their face.”
After fellow students collectively express bewilderment at their peer having been labeled “ugly,” Clay then instructs her students to “go in” with “10 seconds of compliments.”
The student is then showered with positive affirmations by peers as well as Clay. She’s complimented on everything from her smile to her vulnerability as she begins to tear up.
Afterwards, students needed no further instruction from Clay as they walked up to embrace her.