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The other day at work, a colleague’s wife visited with their newborn daughter. The little girl, just 14 weeks old, reminded me of the preciousness of life anew.

quantum beauty

The new mother held her daughter lovingly in her arms and all exclaimed how truly beautiful this baby is. The mother, from Gambia, was that deep dark perfection of black.

“When she grows up,” the new mother said, “she will look like you. Her hair will be long like yours, and her skin just as light. She’s a mulat, just like you.”  After I recovered from my immediate cringe at the term still in use here in Denmark for biracial children, I realized that there was still, yet one more aspect of this conversation that I needed to wrap my head around.

I immediately corrected her on my racial background: I was not biracial. I felt I had to say something because I have experienced, too many times, for example, being targeted by a group of African girls, who jeered at me, calling me mulat, or the white Danes who assumed the same, but unlike the African girls, attached privilege to this term.  The experience with the group of girls, many years ago, when perhaps I myself looked more like a girl, opened my eyes to the obvious schisms that exist here among, well, everyone.

I felt it was important for me to clarify my racial background, because in a country that is awe of the Tommy Hilfiger version of Blackness, I felt it necessary to claim that whiteness does not a black beauty make.

Don’t get me wrong. I too am in awe of the many versions of beauty that emerge from interracial unions. I don’t adhere, however, to the notion that lighter skin and longer hair is more beautiful than any other kind of beauty, just as I avoid the adhering to the flip-side of that: beauty is too varied to pin down.

That we still judge beauty by a plantocracy standard needs to be addressed. But the only person we need to question about it,  are ourselves. This article is not meant to spark a dialogue among us. It is to inspire a dialogue within.

What is beauty? Beauty is magnetic, inspirational and disarms even the most hardened. Whether it reflects feelings of envy or love, beauty moves us to feel, and when we examine these emotions within, we get a clearer picture of where we stand in our belief system in relation to where we would like to be standing.

Recently a friend of mine in New York, a mother of two biracial boys confided, “I can’t believe how people respond to my boys. Some parents even ignore their own (darker) children when my kids are around.” Many attempt to neutralize this dichotomy by playing into the duality/polarity of either/or , by strumming the other beat of, “the darker the berry”, which does nothing to balance the fact that beauty is all that  and in between.

As women, we become instant role models to little girls, little boys. We teach them about beauty by how we ourselves, relate to it.

When I was a child, I often witnessed my mother, a banana yellow woman, indulge in the ancient art of beautifying courtesy of Avon products. She used foundation, powder, lipstick, mascara, blush…I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I could do the same.

My mother often lamented the fact that my sister and I were “dark” jokingly, a notion I still have of myself despite others’ observation to the contrary.

The other weekend, I saw an old friend. It was a rare collection of Black expats here in Copenhagen and soon, the conversation turned to race. “Why do Black people always have to talk about race?” A friend, a Black man from San Francisco, once lamented.

At the party, another friend of mine, a dark woman with cheekbones to die for, shared her pain of growing up in a community she experienced as being rampant with self-hatred. She’s a high-level financial woman, and she shared the fact that Black men on her financial level, in her financial status, were simply not attracted to her.

I don’t like these conversations because it becomes so general. Do I really believe that all the Black men within the financial sector are not attracted to Black women? No, I don’t.  But I digress…

But I don’t believe we’ll ever get anywhere with this issue until each and every one of us, examine ourselves and ask, what is beauty? How is it constructed for us? How do we construct it?

I notice an interesting phenomenon amongst some bi-racial kids here. Some go through early life,  experiencing a dis-ease about being “different.” Some may even be bullied or laughed at. But then something happens as they grow older. Their difference transforms itself from a liability to an asset. The attention seems to become “positive”.

The thing about beauty is that it is not only how we perceive it in others, but how we relate to it ourselves. Someone who is used to standing out because of how they look, risks becoming addicted to this attention. That’s how beauty can become, well, pretty ugly.

Many of these kids learn all too quickly the power of beauty. They experience how we respond to it, how we value it and how it works for them.

I remember a conversation I had with a biracial Danish woman in the late 90s. When we had met, she had recently started university in England. “I couldn’t believe how I felt.” She said, “I was so much in shock. Suddenly, not only was I not the only Black person, but I wasn’t even the most interesting person in the classroom and I certainly wasn’t the most beautiful. It was a big shock to me.”

The focus is on the outside. But what if we look at our physicality as doorways to our souls? See the door as someone’s beauty, perhaps it is an ornate, gilded door, and ask, where does this door lead to when I open it? A palace of a soul, or a neglected, dilapidated, empty ruin, replete with tumble weeds and all?

Some of the negativity these newly-blossomed biracial kids experience, sometimes come from Blacks. A chasm, unfortunately, erupts between “us” and “them”.  Despite common ancestors (which all humanity shares at any rate) we now eye each other suspiciously. Many might say that this is what slavery and colonialism has left: this legacy of competition.

The other day I met up with a girlfriend. “You look great,” she said, “but always remember to wear a little eyeliner.”

Have you ever experienced being in the presence of a woman who is shining, despite the fact she wears no make-up? You can not fake that kind of beauty, and it demands a presence and balance with self, continually. Beauty is dynamic.

We must balance the images of beauty created and that we create. While Beyonce seems to hold the monopoly on what media (and supposedly the public) deems as beautiful (and she is!) there must be images of beautiful women who wear their hair natural, or choose not to wear make-up or heels. There must be room in our consciousness for the many variations of beauty.

My mother passed on her notions of beauty to me and I eventually rejected them. I don’t adhere to her idea of lightness, straightness of hair or her inability to leave the house without make-up. I do however, still think my mother beautiful.

I want to tell my friend, you know, the one who gently reminded me that a little mascara wouldn’t hurt, that I’m working on my inner beauty and I want my smile to be so magnetic, you won’t even notice the fact that I have not tweezed my eyebrows in the last, well, year.

I want to explain to her that I want to present the best possible role model to my mostly of color students.  For too may of these young girls, pop star puppets have seared, ever so gently, the very delicate, sensitive idea they have about their looks and what the world thinks about it. For too many of us, beauty becomes entangled with vanity.

Competition and jealousy rots the ties that bond us. We excuse this behavior with a word like “evolution” (you know, survival of the most beautiful), as if science is to blame for the insecurities  we fail to deal with, until we’re confronted by a younger, darker, older, lighter, short-haired, long-haired woman. You know the type, the one that makes you realize, wow, not that is beauty!  Rather than open our hearts to each other with a smile, we become suspicious and resentful of the fact that we don’t hold that monopoly on beauty: no one does.  This is especially true amongst Black women who are in environs where we are in the minority. I’m not saying every one thinks like this: but you have definitely experienced being on either end of that spectrum.

It is funny the things “beauty” inspires. But again, what is beauty?

I think I may know the answer. Beauty is that glow that comes from within, which can only be ignited by being connected in the now. That is meeting all with openness to the potential of co-creating greatness. You can only shine it when you work on the most important relationship you’ll ever have: that with yourself.

Again, how much of our notions of beauty are tied-up in age-old plantocracy terms? It is true that we will always be in the state of post-colonialism. The only way we can escape this is creating an entirely new paradigm. Colonialism was the harbinger of dualist thinking. Coming with Columbus was a program of good and evil, rich and poor, slavery and freedom, beautiful and ugly. Many of the cultures encountered by Europeans, many of which have been exterminated, thought way more quantum than that.

I suggest we start with our own personal ideas about beauty. Let’s examine how much of it is tied in with addiction, competition and insecurity.

In the end, I ended up letting this new mother know that her daughter, no matter what the color of her skin or texture of her hair, was indeed, beautiful and that the biggest broadcaster of this message is her mother.

As human beings, we must be real with ourselves: through our consciousness we create our realities. Let’s collectively collaborate on building new paradigms that burst out of the dominant status quo, that of constantly thinking in polarities. Let’s be like the Universe. Let’s get all quantum, and let’s start with beauty.

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