TOO BLACK TO WEAR RED?

I am hoping this is an asinine question. I am hoping that no one thinks like this anymore. There was a time when people that you loved and trusted felt the need to inform you that you were too black to wear red, yellow, coral, orange or any color that was too loud for your dark skin. Do not laugh because I am sure that women of a certain age have heard this before, especially if your complexion is darker than a paper bag.

I do not remember my mother telling me that I was too black to wear loud colors. I am sure she was more subtle. The message was insidiously ingrained in my consciousness by the time I was old enough to buy my own clothes. I was an adult with a child when I finally got the courage to wear a red sweater to work. I was feeling good, and I thought I was looking good, when a co-worker gestured for me to come to her desk. She leaned toward me as if she were going to tell me a secret.

“You know you’re too dark to be wearing that red sweater.” She declared.

And just like that I was that black little girl who was too dark to wear red.

I am a grandmother now, and I am ashamed to admit that I do not own a red sweater, blouse, dress, or shoes for that matter. I wear loud colorful clothing now, but somehow, I

have managed to steer away from the color red. I have made a promise to myself that the next time I see a pretty red dress, shoes, lipstick, etc. I am going to buy it and wear it proudly, because I owe it to the little girl in me to be fearless. I owe it to her to reject the dominant culture’s standard of beauty.

I would love to hear your story. Have you ever been told that you could not wear something because of the color of your skin?




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