"There is always room for improvement," or at least, that's what I've been told by those above me. Perhaps you first hear those words from your parents, and then as you advance, your teachers, friends, family members, your boss or supervisor, but no matter what stage you are in life, there will come a time when those words are said to you. Now, the question becomes just what exactly are you supposed to do about it?
Why do you suppose a person would tell you this? Usually it's because they see something greater in your potential than you see within yourself and they want to push you to aspire to go higher in life. Are you satisfied with the person you are or the person you've become? Is there truly room for more growth? Maybe you've gone as far as you feel this life has to offer you and perhaps you're content with yourself. If that is the case, consider yourself lucky, but the vast majority of us, dare I say it, there is always room for improvement.
But I think the problem then becomes how some people internalize what those words mean. When I think of improving of oneself, I feel that means strength in character, learning those important lessons we're often tested with in life, and becoming better decision makers, thereby making us a better individual in society, but unfortunately, I think some people think 'improvement' means their physical being and not so much emphasis on the mental aspects of their well being.
Some people just aren't happy with the way they look and they make drastic decisions to change their bodies. If you're overweight and want to lose some pounds by exercising and eating right, that's an awesome thing to do for yourself and it's a healthy way to live. Some get plastic surgery and try to improve upon areas they find to be less attractive, thereby making them feel better about themselves. If done in moderation and very carefully, that can make a world of difference for those seeking that type of improvement. However, there are those of us who take this physical 'improvement' to a whole other level--and that are those people who want to change the color of their skin tone literally.
I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't bother me when I see some of my own people changing the color of their skin--in fact, it downright saddens my spirit. I suppose there are those who could argue why would I care and what does it have to do with me, and they'd have the right to ask, but I think what those individuals should be asking is what kind of message are their actions sending to young people of color? What kind of message is that sending out to the world? Are you seriously telling me by changing your skin color, that doesn't have a direct effect on your own people or those who came before you?
Lately, I've been seeing the pictures on the Internet, as I'm positive many of you have of darker skinned entertainers lightening their skin tones. And to tell you the truth, it really angers me and makes me sad at the same damn time. I was so excited when I learned India Arie's new album Cocoa Butter is coming out, and then I read all the recent blog posts about the cover of the album. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this because I had not yet seen it--and OMG when I did, I didn't recognize India. What happened to her beautiful dark skin? I also noticed that her nose appeared to have had some work done too. She has stated that she didn't lighten her skin, but if you look at her previous albums and photos, clearly, someone is lying, and it certainly isn't my eyes, that's for damn sure. How could this beautiful woman sing Video and Brown Skin and turn around and lighten hers? What an insult and worse, a huge confliction is that?!
She also claims that she loves her brown skin and I guess the question burning on my mind is if you love your brown skin so much, why would you allow the people who shot the album cover to use 'lighting' to change your skin's tone? She claims it was the lighting and not 'lightening' that made her skin appear this way. Hmm, really?
Unfortunately, she's not the only African-American entertainer to appear lighter than they are, and it really bothers me when I see this happening. To me, the message I'm getting is either the record companies do not feel darker skinned entertainers are marketable, or the entertainer themselves feel they would be better perceived if their skin were lighter. No matter whose decision it is to do this, I don't like it--period! Michael Jackson wrote and sang a song called Black or White, wherein he stated it didn't matter what color you were, and then over the years, which is clearly an example of overimproving oneself, he lightens his skin to the point he no longer looked like any shade of human color I had ever seen. But he says it doesn't matter what color you are? Hmm, really?
I don't have a problem with anyone improving himself, but when you are a singer writing songs and telling me it's ok to love your 'brown skin' and it doesn't matter if you're 'black or white' and then I visually see the entertainer spouting these lyrics at me, it makes me question the sincerity of that artist. You can't tell me it's ok to love myself for who and what I am, and then you turn around and do the exact opposite of what you're saying. How confusing that must be for younger audiences. Hell, it's confusing to me as an adult!
Why we as individuals do not love ourselves enough to tell these records companies to kiss where the sun don't shine or lower our standards for the sake of a dollar, I have a huge problem with that! When you start improving things that don't require improvement, I believe there's an issue with that person's psyche. It's one thing to improve upon your attitude and work on your mental status, but when you start changing your skin tone to be more acceptable for whatever reason you feel it to be, that's a whole other ball of wax. Don't tell the world it's ok to be these things, and then look the opposite of what you are stating!When is enough. . .enough?
Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet
Your Existence Was No Mistake. . .Neither is Your Color!