“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”
Where ever we live, home or in a foreign country, we come across various people of all colors and shades. It is a fact that your skin color is genetically adapted to the environment you live in and therefore acts as a protection barrier. Dark skinned people have more melanin in their skin that acts like a natural sunscreen and makes it less likely to get skin cancer. But somehow the skin that was designed to protect your body has been made into an issue of vanity and acceptability.
In the west, most people don’t judge you based on the color of your skin. My exposure to the west has only been from my university years and it’s no surprise that there is racism in this society as well but it’s not as widespread as our ‘media minds’ would perceive it to be. How do I know this? Because in the fifteen years that I have lived here, I have been most comfortable in my skin and the issue of my skin color has never been raised. However, kids in schools are bullied for looking different, but to counter that schools promote diversity and involve children in projects that help them understand each other despite their differences. At least proactive measures are being taken to change perceptions.
On the other hand in the east, it is remarkable how much your skin color decides the outcomes in your life. Whether you fit in a group or not; if you can be someone’s friend or not; does society consider you beautiful or not; are you approved to be someone’s wife or considered acceptable for a family. A dark person grows up hearing endless advice about using whitening creams; rubbing milk on their skins; making potions and pastes out of God know’s what; Kids are not allowed to stay out in the sun for too long for the fear of turning black. We don’t even say brown or dark, its outright black.
I had my toughest days in school when girls came up to me and asked “How are you so dark?”, like it made sense. One time someone asked me with a very concerned look,”How do you deal with it, don’t you feel awkward?”. They talk like you’ve lost a leg! How do you deal with living in your skin? The society makes you feel like you have a disability or you are a misfit amongst them. When the time came for marriage proposals, a lot of people went away because of it (Thank Goodness for that!).
It’s very surprising to say that when you live in a multicultural society like the Middle East, its obvious everyone around you looks different. But certain people just lack a filtering process for manners and abruptly ask if you came from a certain country like India, Sri Lanka, or Africa. Isn’t it ludicrous to assume that if you are a certain skin color, you can only belong to a particular region? The worst is when your own people assume such things even though you are speaking the same language.
In University, I had expected the same reaction but found myself bewildered by the way people were treating me. They wanted to know all about me and where I came from and no one assumed I was from the subcontinent, they gave me respect by asking “Where are you from?”. They were more interested in what I had to say rather than what I looked like. I found myself growing self-confident and less conscious of my looks or skin color. I could focus on my education without worrying about my self-esteem.
Skin Whitening Industry
The skin whitening product industry is worth an estimated $3 billion worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Most western companies like L’Oreal, Garnier, Vichy etc. have whitening products that are sold exclusively in Asia because they are tapping into a weakness in those societies. Some people go through extreme measures and apply strong chemicals to bleach their skin. Why ? Just to shut people up? To get society to accept them? Is it fair to drive someone to the brink of harming oneself?
The question is, why do eastern cultures shame a person for having dark skin? Isn’t it obvious that its something a person can’t change? It is just another one of God’s creations in disguise of a blessing and we turn it around to shame someone and make their life miserable. According to God, he has created the best version of ourselves so when we make somebody feel ashamed and bring out the society’s standard yardstick, you forget that you are directly questioning his judgment.
After going through my share of blunt comments about my skin, I have figured out that such people will only go on in their lives being shallow, superficial and immature. It’s a shame. This kind of discrimination can only be taught and cannot be intrinsic. It is certainly not natural to feel like that unless you were used to it. This affected me for the longest time but as I grew up I realized I was taught something valuable through those experiences.
1. I developed a thick skin
When you continuously hear the same comments over and over again, you learn to stop caring. “So I got dark skin, what else is new?”. I learned to pick my battles and matured myself into a habit to never let anyone hurt me without my consent. Haters hate that kind of confidence so brush it off and walk on with class and dignity.
2. What goes around comes around.
Payback is brutal and I don’t ever want to be on the receiving end of it. As long as I am not the one hurting anybody with my actions and words, I am ok. I fear for such people and how God will even the score with them in the end. You should pity these people for their shallow sense of humor.
3. You are what you say and that’s how you’ll become eventually.
Once words have come out, a consequence is decided for you and the lesson has to be learned. Even a few hurtful words that you use for others can have a huge impact on your own life. So, if you are someone who is doing that, stop right now. It’s not worth it and you don’t want to be in that place. If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all. If you are a target, tie a knot and hang in there. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Be strong and don’t let go.
4. Focus on developing a good character
I consider myself very lucky because I always knew that my husband will choose me for my qualities instead of my looks. Can a marriage sustain itself on something that will vanish one day? What does it say about those people who base their life decisions on looks? You can’t control what people say but you can control how it affects you. You can’t change your outside but you can choose to be beautiful inside and that will reflect in your every action.
5. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
To some you will be ugly and to others you are beautiful; Some will think you have a crooked smile and others will love your smile; One person will say, you have good skin and another will say, you need to see a dermatologist; Some will say, you look fat and others say, you look thin. What does it matter then? Which one is true? I know you want to believe the good comments because they make you feel great, but what happens when someone knocks you down with a negative comment? Can you really trust judgemental people?
Absolutely not. Be polite about it but don’t put your belief in them. One should not give away power so easily for mere words that could be changed any second. The belief you have in yourself should be stubborn and unwavering. Almost to the point of annoyance to others. You should know who you are and keep yourself grounded regardless of comments that put you up on cloud nine or bring you down with a loud thump.
6. Own it proudly!
Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Love yourself and remember who you are. No matter what, you should never feel ashamed of yourself or what you look like. God chose to make you like this for a reason. Once you learn how to appreciate yourself, others will become less important. Be your own best friend, others will come and go in your life and so will their comments.
Lastly, Dark skin is not a crime and Light skin is not a prize.
Thanks for reading,