My first clear memory of being told I was pretty was when teacher Annie, my primary school principal, looked at (maybe) 7-year-old me and said to another teacher “she is such a pretty child!”
I used to wish my parents would shower us with tender compliments like the white families did to their children in the movies. Or the white families in the religious publications we had at home.
I mean there were compliments, my parents were just not all soft and lovey-dovey like those pamphlet parents. They were caring and solid, and very busy trying to make life easier for us.
But we had an awareness of our beauty, though. Somehow they gave it to us. So even though having a light-skinned child with curly hair was somehow good, as a child I cannot say I was touched by the beauty of the white people passing through my community. Rather I looked at them with a certain amount of awe because I was aware that they were very different, they held a power that I did not have, that I could not grasp, a power that no one around me seemed to have. It was intriguing and displeasing all at once.
So that chant we chanted as children I truly do not know whether it was simple mimicry or some form of rebellion.
I just know that it gave us some form of power that made us feel good.
Listen to the podcast instead: