On the outside, India might be a country of homogeneously brown people, but on the inside, people fall within a broad color range – from dark brown to almost white. Unfortunately, this diversity in skin color has created a hierarchy of beauty – a hierarchy that tells you that thelight-skinned people are the epitome of beauty, while the dark-skinned people fall at the bottom.
I’m a dark-skinned woman who is well aware of colorism. Before you deduce this post to the typical “Here we go again with the light, bright, and everything right mentality” I’m ready to throw a curve ball. I’m on the opposite side of the colorism debate. While I’m all for my lighter-skinned sisters, I actually think dark-skin is beautiful! I love my complexion
Perhaps everyone’s fascination with light-skin is the attention given to it. I can’t tell you how many times my frenemies have referenced my dark skin in a negative way. Or how they frequently mention to me that most men prefer light-skinned women. Or that the majority of successful, black women, be it in films, television, print, or other avenues of life are light-skinned. I know this type of rationale is not only false, but it perpetuates the superior/inferior complex that so many of our people have. Are dark-skinned women who possess beauty, brains, and happy and healthy relationships difficult concepts to fathom?
During most of my teenage years i always used to feel embarrassed when an advertisement of a fairness cream came on television and silently knowing that all the eyes were on me. TV advertisements for fairness creams were about the dark-skinned girl failing to get the guy, get the job, and get the life of her dreams. The idea was to make you buy into that threatening future of never amounting to anything with the color that coats you, and then make you buy the magic cream that could give your life the right amount of pinkish/whitish glow it needs.
If there was one good thing that TV brought into my drawing room during my growing up years, it was the Oprah Winfrey Show.
I watched the show every afternoon after I came back from school, and apart from the obvious things that one would learn by watching the show, I learned that if I had the right amount of confidence and personality, I could pull off a neon-colored top just like Oprah Winfrey.
If I had the right amount of self-esteem and power within me, then I no longer needed to avoid buying clothes in colors such as white, yellow, orange and black – the colors that people said would look too bright on me or too dull or too ugly. I realized that it was possible for me to wear whatever colors I liked.
I began working on my self-esteem. I cleared the space within me where once I had locked up pain. I kept writing about my dreams in my journal. I shut out the voices of the world and listened to Oprah and to myself, and finally I heard what I always knew – I am beautiful.
I taught myself confidence. I learned that not being ashamed is the first step towards complete confidence about one’s self, one’s bones and flesh.
So I became open about my feelings instead of keeping them inside. I told my friends when something hurt. I embraced having a voice. In the last two years at school, I started doing things that I never did before, for fear of not being good-looking enough to be doing things. I started participating in school activities. I recited the school prayer and the pledge and read the news on the stage during the morning assembly. I started letting people see me.
i understood that being ashamed of how you look or where you belong to is being ashamed of your genes, being ashamed of your parents and their childhoods, their struggles and their existence. It took years of practicing self-esteem before my attitude towards my identity changed completely.
Today at 18 years of age, I am not ashamed. I don’t fear being seen.Today I can reject a saleswoman’s attempts to sell me a new fairness product that promises to remove the “dark spots” (that’s what they call my skin color sometimes), or answer people where I come from without being ashamed.
I still struggle with confidence sometimes, but it’s the kind of struggle that has nothing to do with my background, or looks, or skin color. I don’t feel inferior to fair girls anymore. I am not conscious of my looks while talking to boys. I am no longer bitter towards those who hurt me in the past or those who robbed me of a healthy self-esteem during my teen years.
Today I am at peace with all that.
Though India has not changed since I have grown up. It is still color-conscious. Its fairness cream industry is still booming. Strangers still sometimes poke fun or act plain nasty.But now I know which comments to react to and which ones to tune out, for nothing can now change the way I see myself and the way I define beauty.
I now know that fair and dark are not two sides of a coin called beauty. Neither of them are standards of beauty because beauty in its essence has no standards.The only thing ugly in the world are thoughts and actions that rob us or others of love, peace, and joy. Everything else is beautiful.