Friday, June 2, 2017

FAQs with a Brown Girl

“You should try a fairness cream. It will make you shine! You look so beautiful, just that skin tone…”
“What’s wrong with a brown skin tone?”
“Well, if you are fair, you are beautiful. Your skin looks radiant and you can get married soon…”
“But what has it gotten to do with my skin tone?”
“Have you ever seen any girl with dark skin getting attention?”
“First, let me start by saying that no one needs “attention” and getting attention is not the lone goal for any girl or woman. We need to realize that we are nobody to define any agenda or aspiration for women and girls around us. Until we get there, we need to push appearance out of the agenda that we define for women and girls. There have been so many dark skinned women and girls who have accomplished great things - think about Nandita Das or Radhika Coomaraswamy, or Michelle Obama!”
“That’s all in the big picture. Besides, they are a minority. Haven’t you ever wanted to be fair?”
“I want to be fair, not unfair. I want you to be fair, not unfair.”
“Stop joking. I’m asking you seriously.”
“No, of course not. My skin tone is perfectly fine as it is. I understand if I had a dermatological problem, I’d go get it checked, but I’m perfectly fine with my skin colour being what it is. Do you know that your skin colour cannot be altered?”
“Eh come on. That girl down the street used fairness creams and has become so white!”
“Okay that’s disturbing on so many levels. First, understand that white is as much a colour as brown is, and don’t aspire to be what you are not when it comes to your skin tone. The point I’m trying to make here is rooted in science. Your skin tone is the result of a pigment called melanin, which is fundamental in your skin and cannot be altered, save for some extremely strong bleaching chemicals. Your fairness creams just block the sun’s rays and keep a tan at bay. That’s about it all. You can’t change your basic melanin count, and it’s not even necessary to.”
“What nonsense. Don’t you remember Michael Jackson?”
“See, that’s where your reference needs some research. Michael Jackson had a condition called vitiligo and sought to bleach his skin to create a sense of uniformity. Don’t reference one case to justify an industry that is built on reducing the self-esteem of girls who aren’t fair skinned. Besides, what aspect of my capabilities, skills, talents or achievements are reduced because of my skin tone?”
“Hey don’t get defensive. I’m just trying to help you look beautiful.”
“First of all, beauty is highly subjective, and I think I’m perfectly fine as I am - these linear standards that society and the media create are its own machinations that hold no water. We come in all colours, shapes and sizes, and nothing about our colour makes us less or more beautiful. Now tell me. You didn’t answer my question. What aspect of my capabilities, skills, talents or achievements are reduced because of my skin tone?”
“….. Nothing….”
“Exactly. When the person that I am, my skills, capabilities, achievements, dreams and goals are not a function of my skin colour, when nothing apart from my skin colour is a function of my skin colour, why should it be a basis of discrimination?”
“Hey I’m not saying that, I’m just saying that everyone wants fair skin, so you too…”
“Who is everyone?”
“Right. And so?”
“No, the point is, you’re a girl, you should get married to the right person, and all of them ask for fair skin.”
“Then I won’t find the “right” person among them. Why should I be with someone who is myopic enough to believe that my skin is the lone qualifier? Besides, why are you under the assumption that my lone aspiration is to marriage, and that too, with one from among the pool of those that seek fair skin as the norm?”
“You know, that actually does make sense…”
“Of course it does. It is dehumanizing and exclusionary to assume that we should be out of the fray because of our skin colour, something we have no control over!”
“But what do we do about it? Everyone seems to think the norm is fair skin!”

“Break the norm. Support people like me. Don’t perpetrate the so-called standard, instead, be an ally and let us shake up the system!”