Dark purple lips to match my shirt and skirt. I was ready for the job fair! PC: KSB

My story: how fashion reflects my spirit

Purple lipstick is always a good choice. Wearing it last week, I felt confident and on top of the world, basically like Fena Gitu. I wore it to match my skirt, and it changed my outlook on the day. I love lipstick and purple and the two combined. But there’s a spiritual point to this, and it applies to people of all genders.

Thanks for sharing in my story.

Today when the cashier at Wendy’s said purple looked good on me, it reminded me of how far I’ve come. I dress how I feel, but I have a rule now that I must always wear some splash of color in my outfit to share some joy. I began this practice during an eternal Chicagoland winter several years ago when everyone around was wearing black and grey like the gloomy sky above. Even when I’m mourning, I’ll wear a bright scarf or necklace on top of the black to symbolize hope.

But this was not always the case. In junior high, life was rough. Some girls at my tiny Christian school bullied me, and I had few friends. Why they excluded me, I never knew. I was different than them and refused to conform. Did our particular differences weird them out? I honestly never found an answer. I tried to keep a pure heart and to be on good terms with these girls, but that didn’t stop my understanding of my worth from dropping as they treated me poorly and ignored me.

My attire also reflected my musical interests, one of the differences I mentioned. Skillet was my favorite band at the time; I was obsessed with the band that evolved from grunge when I was born to hard rock around the time of my obsession. A quick Google search will show how it impacted my fashion choices — in short, with lots of black. The punk, rock, and emo scenes drew me. I still enjoy those genres, but my situation and outlook on life has changed, as have my clothing tastes. I don’t wear t-shirts displaying mummies anymore, although I really loved that one in eighth grade before I lost it at a basketball practice. (Sorry I can’t find it online to show you, but here’s a photo of me around the same time.)

Me and a special friend the summer after eighth grade, lol. Photo belongs to KSB.

My special friend and I the summer after eighth grade, lol. Photo belongs to KSB.

Life was miserable at school, and so I dressed how I felt: in black, lots of grey, sometimes olive green — generally lifeless colors. At the time I thought I just liked the colors, but I see now that I wore them as a reflection of my emotions.

I had a total of two friends at school in eighth grade, and I must have had a few clothes items that weren’t black or grey, because one day one of those two girls told me my purple sweater looked good on me. This comment, however random it was, stuck with me.

Slowly, I began incorporating more color into my wardrobe, including a lot of purple. (Towards the end of high school, a girl I babysat was wearing a turtleneck she liked asked me what my style was, and I could only think to say purple.) School also grew gradually better over the years. College was the real game changer. People accepted me with all my quirks and unique interests there.

Today I adore color — particularly purple, which does go well with my complexion and green eyes, but I appreciate anything bright. Color is beautiful. It represents life, joy, and hope. Color makes others smile. This is why I love to wear it now: to bring smiles to those around me, particularly when the weather is grey and everyone’s attire matches it. I want to be a ray of sunshine.

And I’m not the only one who’s had to overcome something difficult and came out rocking colorful lips. Nyakim Gatwech faced discrimination and harmful ignorance based on her dark skin in her modeling career but decided to rock bold colors in the face of the naysayers. Her story is quite different than mine, but I encourage you to read it here. Her colorful style is symbolic, too.

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As a disclaimer, I do know some exuberant people who prefer to wear dark colors, but I personally view color as symbolic of life and have found that a bright sweater can make people smile when it stands out amidst grey coats on a rainy day. I praise God for bringing me joy in Him so that I can share it with others, even through something as simple as my wardrobe. Evidently, our outfits aren’t always just clothes, after all; as symbols, they contain meaning.

Seven years ago, I felt invisible. Now I am a new woman, a confident one who is learning her worth and beauty and calling that out in others. As Fena sings*, do your thing and be a queen. And of course, remember that you were created in the image of a loving, holy, and entirely capable God who sees you.

 

*See link in first graf. Really. It’s worth it.

 

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What does it mean to be White in the United States? A personal account.

How often do you think about the color of your skin? How often do you notice the ways it affects how people treat you? I am White, and I try to think about this every day.

I surely do not have to think about my Whiteness. I didn’t realize it until about a year and a half ago, but now I choose to recognize it. I choose to examine the privilege I receive because of that as well. I also consider basic interactions with people of other colors and other white people.

Because I’m White, achieving status in the United States is much easier for me than my darker-skinned counter parts. (The hurtles and ceilings I encounter would have to do with my gender rather than my race, but I won’t get into that here.)

Because I’m White, I could ignore the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. I wouldn’t be personally affected.

Because I’m White, other white people assume I can read and speak English well without making me take special tests before I enter a specific setting. (This happened to one of my half-White, half-Latina friends even though she speaks and reads English perfectly, and I’m sure she’s not the only one.)

Because I’m White, I’m not the butt of insensitive jokes about blending in with the night, and people don’t ask if I’m wearing a wig or a weave.

Despite this, I choose to recognize my own Whiteness yet engage with people of color and the issues pertaining to them.

Though I am White, I intentionally befriend people of color and other nationalities at my workplaces. I want to learn about the world and operate outside of the sphere that’s filled with a lot of people who look like me.

Though I am White, I engage with the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. While my person is not affected, the body of Christ is, and thus I am. My friends are affected, thus I am. My neighbors are affected, thus I am.

Though I am White, I recognize the value of knowing multiple languages and consider the complexity that language and culture provoke. I also know that even in the United States, not all white people speak English and not all non-white people speak their language of descent. We must get to know people before we judge them.

Since I am White and was socialized in the suburbs where most other people were White as well, I need to be especially careful to think before I speak. I need to recognize the differences between culture and avoid insensitive comments or questions but not be afraid to ask good ones. This is easiest and most effective in the safety of good friends of color who know my heart.

I do not write this to emphasize my (limited) awareness of race relations but because I believe my old church’s motto that “people are significant and Jesus is more valuable than anything else.” No matter how racially homogenous our homes may seem, we all impact each other (at a structural level if nothing else, but I really doubt it’s nothing else).

As an aspect of my humanity, being White is complex. Hey, I’m beautifully and intricately made by God! And hey, sin messed up stuff too, like the ways we relate to each other based on outward appearances. Thus, today I challenge you to begin recognizing your Whiteness in all it means.

I’m calling us to a greater awareness of how God made our bodies, where he placed us in this world and how that impacts others. (For me sociologically, I’m a White, lower-middle class, American female. That’s a lot to process!)

When we understand who we are and our standing in this world in comparison to others, we can love others well, considering them better than ourselves, treating them as we’d like to be treated. Whatever our race, we all have privilege and some form of power. How will we use that to serve our neighbors, as Jesus commanded? If you’re White, how does that affect your daily life?