My mother still uses the terms "light-skinned" and "beautiful" interchangeably. Even in spite of numerous discussions, arguments, and debates with me about how problematic this is, especially when she's talking to her darker-skinned daughter (me) :D. She did this just last week, in fact.
I think about this -- my mother's deep seated belief that light skin equals beauty, and at how strongly she clings to this belief. How important it is for her to hang on to this. And I think about how, when I was growing up, she was of course the most beautiful woman in the world to me. And that, then, I never understood where her light skin might have factored into my beauty equation.
It took me years to undo that equation. All the while, she stood solidly by me when my uncles and father thought I should be "handled" more firmly, else I might get a taste of freedom and be "hard to control." It was because of her that I became outspoken, feisty, challenging . . . proving in a way, that my uncles and my father were right.
And maybe because of this support, I was able to rescue myself from the demolition of the "beauty myth" that was so much a part of my growing up years.
Now when I visit home, I watch my mom do my father's and grown brother's laundry. She cooks for them, sweeps up behind them. All with her arthritic knees freezing in place when she stands in one place for too long. While her hands and fingers go numb from years of working on assembly lines. I tell her they're grown men -- I'm pretty sure they can figure out the art of Operating the Washing Machine. She sighs, agrees with me, then goes to turn on the stove for their dinner.
I read somewhere recently that part of our job in our own personal evolution is to birth our own savior. Metaphorically, of course. That we are the only ones who can "birth" the part of ourselves that can save us from ourselves.
My wish is that in 2009, we all birth our own saviors.