B.L.E.A.C.H

Submitted for Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about change.... view prompt

84 comments

Black. Female. Doctor. Black female, female doctor, black doctor. . .

Black, female doctor – that’s what I am. I’m a doctor, I’m a female, and I’m black. Is that too much for me to be?


Black. That’s the first thing that hits you when you see me – the only thing you can think of. Whether you’re Caucasian or Latino, Asian, or even African, that’s the first thing that comes to your mind. Not that I’m a doctor or that I’m a woman, but the conspicuous, and to some, the disgusting color of my skin – black.


You scrunched up your nose when I walked by you. Did I have a repulsive smell? No, I didn’t. Anyone could sink into my Victoria’s Secret perfume. Why then did you look me up and down? Why the abrupt shifting when my hand accidentally brushed yours?


My eyes swept over each person in the library that day: the librarian immersed in a novel, an old man nodding his head in sleep, two children drooling over Archie comic books, and you. I didn’t notice it before because I wasn’t looking, but at that moment, the awareness of my oddness made my mouth taste like bile.


No, I wasn’t odd. I was just like you and you were like me – perfectly human. But your scorn wrongfully defined me as the ape most mocked my race for. My race is in the minority, and one you deemed shameful. I’m black, the only person of color in that library, which according to you was my sin. Because I couldn’t conceal the distinctive color of my skin, I sprinted out of my second home and hid myself instead.


Black female. That’s what he made me aware of – I was somebody nobody found attractive.


“All the guys can come to my party, but only pretty girls are allowed. That means any female darker than my hand isn’t invited.” Michael Tucson said. He lifted his palm for all to see, and the realization that my skin was richer in melanin made it hard for me to swallow.


I interpreted what he said as ‘black girls are ugly’. I’d never once entertained that thought before then. When I was a child, I always saw myself as a pretty girl with my dark skin, kinky hair, wide nose, brown eyes, and black lips. There was no criteria for beauty then, so I wasn’t sorry for being me – I wasn’t sorry for being a black female. Why should I have been?


Yet, as I grew older, I began to think black girls were ranked among the last in the dating game. I vividly remember sitting in the library once and overhearing some black dudes I had crushes on joke about how they would never date a woman darker than them. Hearing that made my heart sink, because I was darker than every single one of them. In that instance, I began to wonder who would want us if our own black men didn’t. Why did the dating pool for a black woman seem like an ankle-deep puddle? I thought.


Even in social gatherings, most of the boys interacted with the white girls. If I was in a group, the guys would make eye contact with the white girls first before eventually noticing I was there. And unless I went out of my way to stand out – with the exception of the prominence my skin color provided – there was no reason any guy had to communicate with me, much less ask for my number. After all, I wasn’t their ‘preference’ because I didn’t have light skin, a pointed nose, straight hair, and pink lips.


However, those minor incidents never once made me think I was ugly. Mostly, I thought it was all in my head, and no one actually thought black girls were unattractive. But Michael’s words slapped me in the face and gave me the insecurity I never asked for. If it was a white guy who said that, I would’ve brushed off the statement and assumed he was silly. But the fact that Michael – a black boy – hinted that his race’s girls were far from appealing, was just the final straw of self-confidence I’d been grasping onto my whole life.


No – I made a mistake. Michael was black in race, but he wasn’t dark-skinned. Slowly but surely, I’ve started coming to terms with the fact that there are dark-skinned blacks and light-skinned blacks. Michael was a perfect example of the latter, and I, a perfect of the former. All the girls who attended his party that night were either whites or light-skinned blacks, while those of us who sat at home watching back-to-back episodes of our favorite series with popcorn as our comfort were dark-skinned.


Till now, I don’t know what to call what Michael did. It couldn’t be racism, because guys of all races were invited to his party – and he himself was black. It couldn’t also be a sexist act, because girls were invited. Then what should I have called it? Sex-based racism? I didn’t know. But what I knew then was that a girl had to look more white than black before, according to society, she could be beautiful. Since I wasn’t that, I hid myself again.


Black, female doctor. Being a female doctor is bad enough, but when you add black – hell.


“Are you a nurse?” or, “Could you please call a physician?” are common questions they ask any female doctor because a lot of patients find it hard to believe a woman can be called a doctor. However, most – if not all – find it nearly impossible to believe a black woman can be called a doctor, too.


“I’m sorry, but I’m a consultant, and it’s professional advice I’m giving you.” I reply my patients. If I could get a nickel for each time I told them that, I’d be a millionaire. If I got another nickel for every time they re-checked my name tag, and another for when they still insisted on getting a second opinion despite my credentials, I could be a billionaire.


Sometimes, my patients would say shallow things like, “I’m not comfortable with Dr. Stacy in the room” or, “Stacy, why don’t you make yourself useful and clean up the vomit on the floor?”

Statements like those made me grit my teeth and clench my fists tightly, and it usually took a lot of self-control on my part to keep me from screaming harsh retorts like, “If you don’t want me here, you might as well leave this hospital” or, “I have a stethoscope on my neck, and I’m wearing scrubs. How does that make me look like a janitor?”


Yet, even if I lost it and spat my opinions at them, it wouldn’t eradicate the fact that they preferred to listen to male doctors’ advice over mine.


The insult on the injury, however, was the fact that black people had that backward mentality, too. Whether they were light-skinned or dark-skinned blacks, most of them thought the same way.


One of my most defining moments was when a few friends of mine and I were going across the Canadian border for a shopping trip. We were five in number and all from the same undergraduate program, but I was the only black person in the car. As we were ready to cross the border, the black border patrol officer asked us the same questions that they asked everybody like, “Who are you and where are you going?”


And then he asked us, “How do you guys know each other?”


“We’re all in the same health sciences program at McMaster University.” we replied. 


“Okay. And what’s it that you guys are trying to do?”


We all said we wanted to be doctors because that was what we wanted to be at the time. Then, he leaned in through the window of the passenger seat where I was, close enough for me to take a whiff of his after-shave and cologne, and raised an eyebrow at me.


“Even you?” he queried.


“Yes . . .” I drawled and shifted a little on my seat.


“Really?” he probed, then smirked. “Are you sure?”


What kind of question is that? I thought moments before the message he was trying to convey hit me. How was it possible that I could be called a woman, black, and also a doctor? To him, it was incredulous. So the dream I’d had for seventeen years to be in the medical profession, he, in seventeen seconds, had already concluded that my looks didn’t fit it. That was incredibly marking for me, and grief hollowed a pit in my stomach as I wound up the window and hid myself once more.


Change. That’s what is needed. But who needs it – you or me?


My heart is thrumming as I walk up to the stage. I wring my hands continually and bite my lower lip. Every intake of breath causes my lungs to burn, and every step that I take feels like I’m walking on needles. Never before had I dreamed of holding the attention of hundreds of eyes, especially if more than half of those eyes belonged to white people. All my life, I’ve been so focused on hiding myself that I never once tried to be in the spotlight. But today was different. Today, I finally had the courage to step out of the cocoon of shame I’d encased myself in. Today, I was going to bleach.


The people who walked this stage before me to bleach gave the rundown of their lives as blacks in a dominantly white community. They told different stories of unjustified arrests, unemployment or underemployment despite their credentials, abuse, mockery, and to the unfortunate, death.


Listening to each person’s account made my eyes water, because I could totally relate to most of their experiences. All of this suffering was just because we got the short end of the stick by being black. Going through this human hell on Earth wasn’t fair on us. That was why I have to bleach – that is why we have to bleach.


“For many years, I’ve known nothing but shame. I hid myself because I was a black female, hid because I was a female doctor, and hid because I was a black doctor.” I began once I managed to reach the stage without dying.

The silence that accompanies my introduction is deafening, as if the whole world was holding its breath, waiting for me to make a mistake. A cold sweat breaks out on my forehead, and I swallow the lump in my throat.


“However, from today, I will reveal myself to the world. I’m sure everyone knows why.”

A murmur of assent, like the crashing of waves on the shore, is the audience’s reply.


“Yet, it would be useless of me to say I would reveal myself to the world without confirming my identity. This, I believe, should be the first step of bleaching.”

I take a long, deep breath to calm my unsteady nerves.


“For a long time, I’ve permitted people to call me by my second name, which is Stacy. But my first name, the one I would like to be called from now on, is Chika. Chika Stacy, if you insist. So if you thought I would let go of my African bloodline, you were completely mistaken.


Chika is an African name – a Nigerian one, to be precise. I stand here before you as Dr. Chika, fearlessly coated in melanin like a proud African, to bleach. Not to whiten my skin, but to remove the tainted image of blacks from your minds.”


Cheers from the audience, which is their response to my bleaching, makes pride swell up within me. Wait – did you think I was going to change myself? Never! If I did that, you would win, and your warped mentality of blacks would remain intact. It’s you that needs to change, not me.


“I’ve never felt more black than the times I wear my white lab coat. If I was in Africa, I wouldn’t have minded that. But because I live and trained in a dominantly white community, the fact that I stood out couldn’t be ignored. It also didn’t help that we’re in a society that believes anything against the majority is wrong. If the majority of the country likes watching movies, anyone that loves reading books is weird. If the majority says joggers are trending, anyone wearing jeans is old-school. That’s why if the majority is white, any black person is considered inferior – abnormal, to some.


But how many blacks must you mock before you see we’re beautiful? How many of us will you reject before you find out we’re educated? How many of us must you wrongfully detain before you know we’re human? And how many of our lives must you take before you realize they matter?”


Silence fills the room again, but this time, I’m not uncomfortable in it. In fact, a new surge of confidence fills me, and my whole body tingles as my passion to bleach becomes overwhelming.


“That is why I’m here. After years of hiding, I stand to change this wrong perspective that has made me uncomfortable in my dark skin. I came here to bleach with these words:


Blacks are also beautiful, so don’t mock us because our features are different. Blacks are also leaders, so don’t make us feel inferior. Blacks are also educated, so don’t downgrade our qualifications. Blacks are also ambitious, so don’t tell us we can’t achieve our dreams. Blacks are also convivial, so don’t snob us. And blacks are also human, so don’t treat us like we’re not.


This is my meaning of bleach – to prove to you that we are also beautiful, leaders, educated, ambitious, convivial, and human. So it’s not us that needs to change ourselves, but you who needs to change your mind-set. Keep the first letters of those words in your mind – b for beautiful, l for leaders, e for educated, a for ambitious, c for convivial, h for human – and bleach. Thank you.”


The thunder of applause that erupts from the audience makes my ears bleed. The uncontrollable smile that parted my lips, I’m sure, is bright enough to make even the sun squint. In the eyes of the people that soaked in every word that dripped out of my mouth, I see acceptance. From the way the white lady in the front gave me an encouraging nod to the way the black man at the side gave me a thumbs up, I know what these people see in me isn’t a color or a gender, but a person pushing for change.


I’m a black, female doctor and no, it’s not too much for me to be. Why should it? I am Dr. Chika, and I’m not ashamed of my identity – no one should. So the next time you see a person, black or white, who wants to change him or herself in order to be accepted by society, tell them my story. No – tell them our story. Tell them it's not them that needs to change a thing, but the world that needs to change its heart.

Tell them B.L.E.A.C.H.

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

84 comments

This was so touching ad conveyed a very important message about how people should be treated equally. An excellent read to enlight people's minds about racism!

Reply

11:54 Jul 10, 2020

Thank you so much for reading my story and giving me feedback. I really appreciate it :D

Reply

No problem Kelechi, glad to know it helped you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zilla Babbitt
00:13 Jun 15, 2020

You asked me to read, so here I am. This is good! You have some good showing scenes in here, and I love how this is based on a real person. The whole time I was thinking, please no please no, don't bleach your skin, it's terrible for you physically and you're stronger, don't give in to the naysayers! And then I was so happy about the ending. I just wish she had ignored all the petty things throughout the story, gone on and grown and gotten stronger, showing those people through her actions and by not rising to the bait that she is just as go...

Reply

01:51 Jun 15, 2020

Zilla, thank you so much for taking out the time to read my story. I really appreciate it. Also, the fact that you like my story is really morale-boosting for me. The while since I asked, I was wondering what errors or critique you'd give my work, because there are some stories I've read that you gave lengthy critiques. However, I still don't know if I should be relieved you had only one problem, haha. I'm used to people giving lots of criticism on my work, so the fact that there are fewer on this one makes me a bit nervous. Are there too ...

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
12:34 Jun 15, 2020

You're so welcome! Yes telling versus showing is really difficult especially if you're in that essay mindset. But practice makes perfect!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Rose Bingely
00:56 Jun 28, 2020

I love this story, it entertained and through bucket loads of emotion in. It was so good, I just waited for a grammatical error or inappropriate section, yet I never found it. As a fellow author: I am impressed, as a fan: I am amazed, as a reader: I am happy, as a white woman: I am grieved and disgusted. (About racism not your story). Until recently I thought overall racism was a thing of the past, of course I knew splashes were thrown in here or there, but didn’t know the degree of it. You provided when where and why. Thank you. (Also, so g...

Reply

07:46 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you so much for this detailed feedback, Rose. I am really glad you were able to feel these emotions. As for the approval, I don't really know why. A couple of stories were not yet approved after they announced the winner, but when I reached out to the reedsy support team, they said they were still reading submissions. I think stories slip through the net sometimes, because there are loads of stories to read in so little time. Anyways, I think they made it up to me by approving Silent Betrayer early. It was the fourth or fifth to be...

Reply

Rose Bingely
14:49 Jun 28, 2020

Of course! I loved this!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Corey Melin
22:33 Jun 27, 2020

Greatly impressed with this story and how you nailed it on the failures of society. Here is one to help people but ridiculed by the ignorant, thoughtless ones. Keep shining the light for a better future.

Reply

00:46 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you so much for this, Corey. I really appreciate it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Luke Fahy
19:22 Jun 27, 2020

this is a very well crafted story that hits with a good message. bravo!

Reply

21:43 Jun 27, 2020

Thank you so much, Luke.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Harken Void
21:02 Jun 25, 2020

Damn. Reedsy almost missed a gem of a story, good thing you contacted them! A powerful and clear message, delivered through beautiful writing. I was so sucked into the story that I wasn't paying attention for typos and such, sorry ;) Demonization of someone who is different than ourselves is so deeply ingrained into our culture and society that in order to finaly be rid of it, we need to re-define the whole of society from scratch. Tear it down and burn it. It doesn't work anyway. And hopefuly, beautiful stories like this one can start ...

Reply

21:53 Jun 25, 2020

Thank you, Harken, for this comment. And yes, I'm also looking forward to a future where everyone sees each other as human and that alone. #nomoresegregation Also, no need to worry about the typos. My work is already approved, so I wouldn't be able to correct it, anyways.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Anoushka Jain
11:33 Jun 25, 2020

Let me just say I loved your story. It was profoundly moving, and made me really think about things from a new perspective. I love how you realistic your character was, and how much any human being who has ever felt oppressed or been discriminated against could identify with, in one way or another. Your story was beautifully written, really awesome job!

Reply

13:22 Jun 25, 2020

Thank you so much for this, Anoushka. I really appreciate it :) Mostly, my character's insecurities are inspired by mine but I haven't experienced the things she has. I just got them from stories I've read black women face. Thanks, again for this comment. Could you please check out my latest story, 'Silent Betrayer'?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:37 Jun 24, 2020

This story is strong enough to draw one's attention to every single events you depict in this story. The harsh truth about racism, and how it can affect you no matter your hard work or your position is very sad and heart touching. It is very captivating too. I liked it so much, the beginning line grasped me within a jiffy. Kudos to your writing! I absolutely love it.

Reply

00:11 Jun 25, 2020

Thank you so much for this. I'm really happy to receive such praise from you, because your stories are also awesome. And I'm also glad you enjoyed the beginning line - it was my intention to captivate my readers with the first words.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Pavia Dima
10:17 Jun 23, 2020

Hello, I have read it and I was crying inside because I found it to be very beautiful. I found it very easy to follow. I didn't get confused about the timeline at all, and to me all the descriptions were very vivid and it just feels like I was with her in that moment. I don't know much about what goes on in that Western part of the world, but it hurts to know that discrimination like that still exists in this age. The speech felt a lot like it could have actually been used in a rally. I wonder if it is? I really liked how the bleaching h...

Reply

11:28 Jun 23, 2020

Pavia, thank you so much for this beautiful comment. I love that you found meaning in my story - I really do. And no, the speech hasn't been used in a rally. It was all something I've missed over before and decided to spill it out with my words. Also, to easily like my story, go to my story profile and under B.L.E.A.C.H, you'll see a thumbs up. Just click on it. Thanks once again for this. I'm blushing right now :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Grace M'mbone
16:02 Jun 22, 2020

Beautiful would be an understatement for this writing. I am proud of it because it made me feel included,engaged and proud. Relatable and applaudible. B.L.E.A.C.H

Reply

18:24 Jun 22, 2020

Thank you so much for this, Grace. I'm really glad it spoke to you and that you could relate with my story. Thank you for this :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:47 Jun 21, 2020

WOW....Great story Kelechi! Such a sweet and inspirational story! Loved it! Your stories are always UNIQUE...Good job!😊😉 Keep writing and have a great day Kelechi!❤️️

Reply

15:19 Jun 21, 2020

Awwwnn... Thank you so much, Harshini. I'm glad you think my stories are unique and that this one touched you. And yes, I'll keep writing. I didn't write last week because there was an issue with my story not being approved. But I contacted the reedsy support team and it got approved this week - must've slipped through the net. I'm in the right frame of mind to continue writing, now that my anxiety is gone. Thanks, again:)

Reply

16:04 Jun 21, 2020

No worries Kelechi! I'm glad that your story was approved after all the troubles you went through!😊 Have a great day Kelechi!❤️️

Reply

16:25 Jun 21, 2020

Have a great day, too😊💞

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ayomikun Oladipo
09:36 Jun 20, 2020

Woahhh!! This is awesome! I just came here to be supportive but this story is beyond marvellous; I was hooked. Keep up the good work mate! ❤

Reply

10:02 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you so much😁

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
16:32 Jun 15, 2020

Nice story.I really liked the moral lesson from the story

Reply

01:37 Jun 16, 2020

Thank you so much. I'm glad you liked it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Laksh Suneja
10:34 Jun 15, 2020

I really enjoyed reading this story. Powerful and emotional too. I really liked the theme

Reply

11:10 Jun 15, 2020

Thank you so much. I'm really glad that you took time out to read my story and that you liked it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Lottie James
08:06 Jun 15, 2020

This is really good! It highlighted a part of society that I had never fully considered and was really well written. It is a great reflection of the protests that are happening at the moment and gives a new level of clarity to what they are demanding be eradicated from society. Nice job!

Reply

08:57 Jun 15, 2020

Thank you so much Lottie, for taking the time out to read my story and comment on it. I really appreciate it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Waverley Stark
18:35 Jun 14, 2020

This was a wonderful story Kelechi. Deep, emotional, and fraught with pain. It was a beautiful read and one I enjoyed immensely. Feedback: she talks about sitting in the library and going onstage and going to parties, but it was a little hard to tell what time frame these were all in, past or present. But otherwise, the story was lovely.

Reply

19:54 Jun 14, 2020

Thank you, Waverly, for taking the time out to read my story and commenting on it. I really appreciate it. All of those timelines in the first part of the story were in the past. I think I greatly used past tense there, and the part where she was walking on the stage, I switched to present tense. I'll try to see if I can add some things to make the timelines clearer... Once again, thank you for reading my story. I really appreciate it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kathleen March
16:36 Jun 14, 2020

I would like to think that this story is a little dated, that this describes the society of a few decades ago. I would LIKE to think that, but cant’t. The story’s narrator maintains a steady tone of focus, awareness, and sense of pride. In a way the story reads like an editorial piece, but that is not a negative thing. There is no doubt as to the strength of the narrator!

Reply

16:51 Jun 14, 2020

Kathleen, thank you so much for taking the time out to read and comment on my story. I really appreciate that. Also, the story might be a little dated, because people don't really look at colour nowadays. However, if you read the author's note I put as a comment, you'll see the story is inspired by things that happen now. Unconsciously, some people still undermine blacks, and it might not be intentional. Yet, I wouldn't know for sure, because I've not experienced such. Most of it is based on stories I've read. Once again, thank you for...

Reply

Kathleen March
17:48 Jun 14, 2020

I did see the note, which is also why it is hard to accept. I was not brought up to discriminate. My family, however, had very little money, so I do see class discrimination. The story’s topic is more relevant than ever.

Reply

19:40 Jun 14, 2020

That's very good! It's great that you weren't brought up to discriminate. Sometimes, some parents can be discrminative and pass that mentality on to their children. It's quite sad. Hopefully, this world will become better. Not just for racial prejudice, but for other topics, too.

Reply

Kathleen March
19:52 Jun 14, 2020

Many of my friends are Spanish and Portuguese speakers, from many countries. Pretty hard to discriminate when you love their languages and cultures, as I always have! Learning oter languages is one way to come to treasure other parts of the world.

Reply

19:59 Jun 14, 2020

Yes, that's true. Learning a language is gold. I've tried a lot to learn French, and after that, I want to explore other language options. The fact that I love the language also makes me want to visit places like Paris to dive deep into their culture. Yes, you're right. Learning a language is a way to treasure other parts of the world. I hope for more opportunities to explore the world by meeting different people who speak various languages and have different cultures.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Sammy Ismail
13:18 Jun 14, 2020

I really enjoyed reading this story. Powerful and emotional too. Discrimination in color is very common in the world and the other discrimination is when you are a woman. This story is really inspirational too. Great job!

Reply

14:13 Jun 14, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really glad that you took time out to read my story - I really appreciate it. And yes, being a woman makes things worse. I just hope this world looks less at colour and gender in the future. Thanks, once again :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Roshna Rusiniya
12:58 Jun 14, 2020

This is a great story. You have managed to portray the insecurities of a dark-skinned woman very well. Colour discrimination is a universal curse. Every culture has it, in one way or the other. I also loved the acronym- BLEACH.

Reply

13:09 Jun 14, 2020

Thank you so much for reading my story and leaving a comment. Yes, colour discrimination is everywhere. Even if it's not colour, we have things like weight or 'class' as factors. There's basically discrimination on one thing or the other. Also, the acronym took quite a while of brainstorming, but I got there at the end. I'm glad you like it. Thanks again for reading my story. I really appreciate it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
D. Holmes
03:19 Jun 14, 2020

Amazing. Thank you for writing this.

Reply

03:30 Jun 14, 2020

You're welcome! Thank you for reading my story :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply