You know how we, as black people, have been telling everyone how awesome it is to be us for generations? They tried not to hear it. Even while they stole our music, swiped our fashion, and purposely tanned themselves to mimic that color they claimed to hate so much.

I’m a dark-skinned man. In terms of complexion, I’m somewhere between Morris Chestnut and Taye Diggs. So, in other words, I look as good as Morris and Taye. No further questions.

But, so many of us have that story of how terrible it was to be so dark and have that stigma attached to the skin we were born in. I got beat up and hated on even by people in my own family. My birth mother once said my skin was “unlucky” and that it would hold me back in life. I allowed that thinking to fester in my mind for decades. And it held me back tremendously.
The great thing, however, is that I love my deep-chocolate skin, and I am saddened that I wasted so many years hating it. Here’s why.

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Prevents AMD

Age related macular degeneration (AMD), is just the natural worsening of eyesight, blurry vision, etc. I wear glasses, my dad has glaucoma, and I have various family members with eyesight-related issues that require cannabis use…I’m sure. *Cough* Yet, even with all those issues, my parents found it relatively easy to catch me with a shoe whenever I was doing something wrong. Like, scary accuracy. Shoes would fly around corners and attack my ass with the force of a Mike Tyson punch. Weird. Even physics bows to the wishes of a black grandmother’s shoe, I suppose.

Most of us have beautiful, full brown eyes. So, it can be assumed that this means people with brown eyes have it made in the shade, so to speak. However, while most scientists agree AMD is much more common in white persons than in persons of black African ancestry, the influence of iris color has been more controversial.

And I’ve searched to learn if any study is consistent, and iris color alone doesn’t universally show a better or worsening of eyesight. What that means is that if you happen to be black and have light-colored eyes, you still have a greater chance of losing your eyesight later in life than your Caucasian counterparts. Thanks, Melanin!

Coily Hair Helps Temperature Regulation

Nappy hair. We’ve all been there. The struggle was named “the struggle” due to this. Remember Mom trying to tame that tangle with a dull comb, a glob of blue Ultra Sheen, and a kung fu grip because she knew you wouldn’t stay still? Well, you should be glad to know that we’re lucky to have these locks of love. Numerous health benefits come from having curly, coily, kinky hair. Ours was the original hair. We sometimes forget that. Therefore, it only makes sense it would be the most adaptive for hot environments.

Outside of getting wet, our hair stays naturally fluffy, coiled, keeping out those pesky UV rays we keep hearing about. The helix-like nature really makes it difficult for heat and rays and increases circulation of cool air directly to our scalps. Neat, huh?

There’s this adorable image of a little boy touching Obama’s hair to see if it felt the same as his. And that feels good, to me. Of all the things I never imagined I’d see was a black president not only dancing, singing, and sitting behind the desk of the highest position in the free-world—a little chocolate kid being lucky enough to rub his hair, just to check if they both matched was probably at the top of that list.

 

Imagine Trump getting his golden bird’s nest played with? Ha. Ha. Ha. Not sure how many people would risk getting their hands pecked by whatever demon lives inside that thing, but I often wish someone would rip off that catawampus excuse for a do rag. But I dream. I dream.

Sadly, random people grabbing our hair has long been a concern, an assault on personal space and, it seems, a way to further control our bodies by ignoring boundaries, as if it would be just as acceptable to do it to some random white or Asian person. People have been so extra, for so long, that it inspired a woman to create a video game for women tired of random hands grabbing at our precious locks. It’s addictive as hell, so I highly recommend you try out Hair Nah. In it, you chose the shade of brown of your avatar, her hair style, and the location: Osaka, Havana, or Santa Monica Pier.

The creator, Momo Pixel, told Essence “it’s literally happened to every black girl I’ve met. Even while making this game it happened to me, multiple times.” I’ve been lucky enough as a black man to only have experienced the phenomenon of random folks grasping and fluffing out my ‘fro only a couple times. But I work out a lot and have been told I appear threatening, so I assume that’s what keeps the vultures at bay.

Protects You From the Sun (Black Don’t Crack)

It’s a saying as old as… I dunno, forever. My dad looked like my brother until well after I graduated high school; unfortunately, I still look like I’m in high school, so who cares? Just kidding, just kidding. I love having youthful skin, because I’m 31 now and I know the future looks pretty bright that I’ll still be a youthful 51 or 61.

Our beautiful melanin acts like sunscreen. Not that we didn’t know that already. How often have you taken your white friend to the beach and watched them bathe in SPF 451 and still come out looking like undercooked fish meat? Or they look like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and you just can’t help bursting into “Under the Sea” in your worst Jamaican imitation.

According to anthropologist Michael Muehlehbein in Human Evolutionary Biology, through evolution, human skin developed protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Melanin does this by absorbing “high energy forms of electromagnetic radiation UVR and ionizing radiation, and to neutralize the chemical by-products when cells interact with these agents.”

Scientists believe melanin helps keep harmful toxins from the body, so you can stop putting Robitussin on everything!

RELATED: Black Don’t Crack: 50 Stunning Stars Over 50 

 

Human Reproduction

What’s more important to us earthlings than the ability to gestate life? As far as I can tell, with a world population at a little over 7.4 billion as of this writing—check out the population counter because it’s pretty dope—and you’ll see that a child is born every 8 seconds somewhere on the planet, nothing is more important to humanity than giving birth to humanity. 11 deaths per second. And America comes in at number 3 on the list, with 326 million inhabitants. Gosh, science is fun.

In Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color, Nina Jablonski notes: “Women need folate to maintain healthy eggs, for proper implantation of the fertilized egg, and for development of a healthy placenta after fertilization. It is also essential for all aspects of fetal growth and organ development water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and whole grains, and it was known at that time that.” Now, because folate is produced by melanin, I’m hoping you’ve already guessed who has the greatest advantage when it comes to nurturing healthy babies, in ideal conditions, that is. Many people of the Caucasoid persuasion have higher birth rates because of socio-economic benefits, but if all things were equal, black and brown women would absolutely have the best of all possible birth worlds.

Protection From Hearing Loss

I always had at least one uncle who couldn’t hear to save his life. Didn’t you? But then I also always had even more uncles who would say “Huh?” just enough times to catch you in some lie. They’d hear you just fine the first 3 times, but not know you were lying until that fourth time around. And that’s when the belt came out. “Shouldn’t have took that Twinkie, Carla,” they’d say, with the stellar African American eagle eyesight.

Scientists at the Federal Institute for Occupation Safety and Health suspect that brown skin reduces the risk of hearing loss tremendously. Melanocytes, which produce melanin, are present in both the skin and cochlea, or the ear area. And “epidemiologic studies of large population-based cohorts have consistently demonstrated lower rates of hearing loss among black than white participants with the odds of hearing loss generally 40–60% lower in black individuals.” Again, we win. It’s not a contest, though. But we win.

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I get the sense many people will feel this is an attack on everything that’s not black. I can see where they’re coming from. My words may be overly harsh. Highly accusatory, and if written by a white person would more than likely be banned online.

I do believe that having the wrong color skin has been put up to scrutiny before, exhaustively throughout time. Free speech has only applied to people like myself for a short period of time. And I’d hate to think I am a contributor to hate speech by writing this, like this, in my persnickety style.

This is where I find myself at odds with myself, when I see people condemning brothers and sisters for kneeling before a flag that would mean nothing without our sacrifices, when they forced us to kneel to a God that they made us accept, which many of us still kneel down before; when they denied us entry into restaurants (as a side note, there are still establishments I can’t go into because of this black body I finally became comfortable in); and when I see people making comments about how it’s all of my community’s fault for getting shot by cops even when there is clear evidence to the contrary.

I must say that though gains are coming to us more and more (in the form of Academy Award wins, appointments to Congress, and even elevations to the Presidency), I am exasperated when people say “you got civil rights 50 years ago. Get over it! You’re not oppressed anymore. It’s in your head, you crybabies!” Yeah, just like how you thought Jackie Robinson making it into the Major Leagues in 1947 ended racism?

Check out numbers of overturned convictions, including this study that shows 50% of blacks were wrongly convicted of murder, as opposed to 36% of whites from 1989 to the present. During the same time, 60% of blacks were wrongly accused of sexual assault, as opposed to 33% of whites, and 55% of blacks were wrongly convicted of drug possession as opposed to 25% of whites. And remember that scary 13% figure, where data shows blacks commit half of all crime in America despite only making up 13 percent of the population?

That’s interesting because that statistic assumes that the entire black community is committing crimes. What percentage of that 13 has ever conducted any kind of illegal activity? See where things can get out of hand? Besides that, that number becomes relatively smaller once you incorporate how many convictions are overturned. I’ve been accused by many cops of wrongdoing just for looking black, which is extremely hard for me not to do. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I’d like to think that this skin is tougher than most, whether or not we bleed easier than others. With all we’ve been held back from, all that we’ve been subjected to—I’m calling you out Crack Epidemic. Self-hate. We haven’t given up. That’s what I would only hope to inspire in others, to keep the right up, flaunting that nappy hair, beautiful caramel or mahogany, high-yellow or oatmeal skin. We gotta keep trying to get ours, to lift each other up because so much seems to be against us. Murder rates and death rates. Prison rates. General hate, constant discouragement. Look what we’re capable of. Be proud of this skin—something I have to remind myself to do, when I get to my lowest. Melanin is winning. Don’t unplug the game just yet.

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Alex Miller is a freelance writer living in Harlem. His work has appeared in Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other places.

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