March 6th was proclaimed “Blackout Day,” a day where black people were encouraged to post pictures of themselves using the tag #blackout and celebrate black beauty, as it is underrepresented in mainstream media.
As someone that had extremely low self esteem growing up because I thought I had to have fairer skin and lighter eyes and longer, more loosely coiled hair to be beautiful, I’m coming from a place of understanding how Eurocentric beauty ideals affect people of color.
However, as someone who has grown and matured to see life beyond the lense of my own emotion, I understand that as the United States is a predominantly white country, it makes sense that the national standard of beauty has revolved around white people. I believe wholeheartedly that as a country, the United States could benefit from understanding that beauty as a concept should not be defined by one group of people. Beauty is subjective, and we limit ourselves in our appreciation and perception of beauty if we decide to only recognize one type of beauty. However, I’m not sure that forcing media outlets at gunpoint to feature more celebrities of color is the solution. I think the beginning of real change will be when communities of color decide to take responsibility for their own sense of self and stop waiting for their appearance to be validated by others.
As well intentioned as Blackout Day may have been, and as much notoriety as it received, I think that Blackout Day was an overall step backward. Black beauty was showcased, and I saw gorgeous person after gorgeous person on my Tumblr dashboard, and enjoyed it. However, in the grand scheme of things, the day seemed to be little more than an excuse for self indulgence and narcissism. I don’t have a problem with self indulgence or narcissism, and I think the world would be a better place if less people were afraid to take pride in themselves, but I take issue thinly veiled conceit being sold as “activism.” I understand how tiring it can be to be your own cheerleading squad. I understand how hard it is to feel beautiful when it seems like you’re the only person who believes it. I understand. But nothing worth doing is easy. Anything that will benefit you in the long run requires strength and discipline. So instead of begging the world, or the media, or our peers to call us pretty, or handsome, we need to cultivate and nurture that belief among ourselves.