By Sanjana Suresh:
I’m 19, and I’m dark skinned. And to be honest, I grew up in a society where being fair (the adjective, not the adverb), is a beauty norm. It was only when I started going to school did I realise that I was one among the few who were not a part of the crowd. I was called names. I was told that I was ‘black’. You may call it bullying; but for the first 15 years of my existence that were full of face packs and expensive creams, I have come to realise that in the process of trying to be a part of the ‘elite’ group, I was the biggest bully to myself.
Like any kid, I’d play my heart out only if I were playing in a shaded area with full sleeve clothes on. I’d put on a mask of turmeric and milk or a paste of every other vegetable available in the market to get a shade fairer. The only positive side to these natural masks was that some of them tasted good. These might’ve actually worked, though; in a world where the sun never shone or in a place where the phenotype is not observed.
While these beauty regimes were not working in any way they were supposed to; I started judging myself. I was convinced that I wasn’t beautiful at all. I was jealous of other girls around me. And while this was happening, I became aware of the fact that I was becoming a part of the kind of society I never wanted to be in.
I discontinued the use of skin whitening products because I was exhausted (Also because I could complete some of my homework during that time). But then, that changed nothing other than the fact that I was envious even without the cosmetics. What really did change my perspective was appreciation. Not appreciation about my beauty (which again, would not hurt), but the acknowledgement I received from others for my skills (homework had its perks too!). I was doing well in school, and I was being appreciated for it. And this was in no way linked to the way I looked. My skin colour did not depreciate my capabilities and potential. A simple remark of ‘good job’ from a teacher helped me overcome colourism in a big way.
Being dark skinned is something that was configured in my genetic makeup. Appearances may be appealing to the eye, but showcasing something, one has a flair for, is way more appealing. After all, if black and white clothing is a trend we can wear, then our skin colours can also be worn with grace.
To conclude, in the words of Dan Brown, “The heart never knows the colour of the skin.”