I’m a racist. Yes, I am. I’ve been doing that to me all through my existence. Calling myself ugly and dreadful. Whether it was when I was that little girl and now I’m that 21-year-old today. I grew up as a brown girl who was forced to live in a society and family that’s always thought I was stuck with my skin colour.
A friend of mine would say, ‘Hey! You’re so bad on yourself. You yourself, are a racist. No one gives a shit about your colour. It’s only you criticising your own self.’ Little do they know how hard it is for someone like me to start loving myself who for years have her worth being defined by the colour of her skin.
People have made it hard for me to approve of me without any prejudgment. Society nurtures you to define yourself against a prototype that promotes light skin, flawless and smooth.
Like for many girls in India, for me too, it started from a very young age.
I wasn’t preferred for being the lead in a group dance performance despite being the best, because I was dark skin toned. Unkind as it may seem, the first thing my grandmother uttered when I was born was ‘yeh kesi chitkabri beti paida hui hai’ and each time this has been said everyone laughed about it.
She refused to dress me and take me to the temple with my cousins only because I was dark skin toned.
I’ve been called out with awful nicknames like ‘kaali‘ all my life and people in the family normalised it.If I’ve ever felt cute just like I did after getting those bangs recently, I was told that I was looking like a ‘black doll’ and not just a ‘doll’.
At family functions, people would say to me, ‘Omg your mother is so pretty how are you like this?’ And as a little girl, I could not decide whether to feel happy about it (because my mother is indeed beautiful) or to loathe it because I didn’t get the colour of my mother or just how I turned up this way. So here I was – not pretty and very hurt.
I am still advised about every beauty masks or DIYs that are there just to enhance my skin colour. Make it a little lighter. And no one ever really cared about the health of my skin you know.
Dark skin is a great tool that the world has used against me by weakening me. They won’t acknowledge my beauty by saying she’s beautiful. Instead, they would say you’re dark but still very beautiful.
Racism is everywhere. And in India, despite us all being browns, it’s just as rampant as the United States where Black Lives Matter is calling to end racist and colourist behaviours. I’m a dark brown woman, living in a country like India where people are obsessed with lighter skin tones.
The contempt for brown skin is widespread despite campaigns and efforts by communities and collectives. And it’s across the class and caste system in India, which is further reinforced by regular doses of advertisements peddling fairness creams, beauty magazine covers defining how ‘beauty’ must be referenced and of course, our well bleached stars.
Recently a new ruling proposed Rs 10 lakh in fine and up to two years of imprisonment for first-time offence, to companies advertising products that claim to make a person fairer, look younger, increase their height, improve their memory or offer cure for hair loss or greying etc. Not sure how this will play out but it’s a start perhaps.
Nevertheless, I have now found a circle of trust and friends who don’t give a shit about the skin colour of a person. And slowly and gradually through my journey, I’ve endured moments when I’ve been in love with my skin. And I won’t ever wish to be anything but this chocolaty, yummy skin coloured self I am.
Chocolate, caramel, toffee – it’s all in.
Besides, I’m proud of the person I am. And I would not have it any other way. All these years whatever I have undergone till date has made me believe that “I was built this way for a reason and so I’m going to use it”. Each and everyone is meant to do something and they need to preserve it. Self-love is the route to enhance and empower all your abilities. Because caring for one own self isn’t self-indulgence but self-preservation. Lastly, if I’m ever blessed with a kid who has a similar skin tone as mine. I would want him or her to evolve in a progressive society that recognizes them for who they are – identifies them for there character, individuality, vigors and values and not the colour of the rind they are smudged with.
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