The Blacker The Berry is a hard read. The harsh realities of colorism exhibited throughout this book made my heart weak. Emma Lou was typecast as unattractive and some would go so far as to call her ugly because of her dark skin; her life was filled with struggles because of this. Her family were blue bloods and created a chapter of the Blue Vein Society in their hometown. Back in the days, lighter-skinned blacks deemed themselves blue blood or blue veiners (if they were light enough to see the blue veins running through their body). Emma Lou came out with dark skin like her father, who left her mother and Emma Lou when she was a toddler. Her family saw her father in Emma Lou and resented her.
Emma Lou believed she could escape from this familial scrutiny when she went to college. She was accepted into USC in California. The only problem with Emma Lou was that she internalized a lot of the negative words that her family said to her while growing up and projected her own self-hate onto other blacks, especially dark-skinned, lower-class ones. She wanted to be accepted with the well-to-do blacks, but they weren’t accepting of her because of her skin color. Desperately searching for a place where she could belong, Emma Lou left USC and moved to Harlem. Yet, she soon learned no matter where she went, she could not escape the demons of her past.
Emma Lou allowed herself to be trapped by her skin color and by the lies she was taught growing up. She encountered terrible relationships, where men, especially Alva, was ashamed of her because of her dark skin and rarely brought her around their friends on a social scale. One day, after many ups and downs, Emma Lou grew tired of allowing her skin color to trap her. She ran from her color issues her whole life and it was finally time she accepted herself.
Her struggle resonated with me in so many ways. Sometimes, we allow the people who are supposed to protect us, to hurt us the most. We fall victim to their misguided perceptions, especially when it comes to standards of beauty and it affects our lives tremendously. Emma Lou allowed the harsh words of her family in her early years to affect the way she looked at herself and it traumatized her for years. Many people are struggling with this very issue, even in today’s society. Eurocentric standards of beauty do very little to empower black women. We have to break these shackles, by empowering ourselves, building confidence in who we are and disallowing society to tell us how we should look. We have to reclaim our beauty.
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