I would like to start by apologising to all the people that I may have offended with the above title, but this is a subject I feel quite strong about and I just needed to talk about it.
Whilst growing up, I have heard this sentence over a thousand times, both in English and in Tamil and for so long I thought about it and thought about why people say it. I have never been insecure about my skin colour and for those who know me personally, I have never complained about my skin colour either. I am comfortable in my skin, and personally I wouldn’t want to be any other colour.
The reason why I am talking about this now, even though I have heard this comment so many times before, is because I felt that it was time to put a stop to these types of comments and even though, me alone can’t make a change, I do hope that people reading this and relating to this will want to put a stop to these kinds of statements by spreading the word, or if YOU, yourself have said this to someone, then maybe you would consider restructuring your sentence and saying things like “you are pretty”, “you are beautiful” rather than “for a dark skin girl you are pretty you know”. Stop!
Recently I went to visit family, and for obvious reasons I cannot say where I went because then people who know me would know who I visited and more importantly this person’s identity is at loose! Anyway, so I went to see family and my aunt as usual analyses me and takes a good look at me and makes her usual comments and I as per usual do the same thing I have been doing for the past 12 years now, which is smile and walk away and just think what is that irritating noise.
So on this particular visit, we were all talking and having conversations about different subjects and bearing in mind, this room was mostly all women and some I don’t really know well, so you can imagine the kind of conversations that were had. Latest Tamil serial gossip, new trending saree’s and fashion, people’s unreasonable period cycle and the best topic how to become fairer. As the conversation was flowing, and everyone was saying what creams they were using and what home made therapy they were doing, I decided to interrupt and say, “why aren’t you guys happy in your skin?” and to which some people smiled at me, some people said yes they were but still tried to become fairer and some just did not say anything. But my aunt looked at me and said ” you don’t need to worry Cathy, even though you have dark skin, you are pretty”, So at this point, I am like “aww thanks, I must be really lucky then, coz imagine, if your dark skin and ugly”, she smiled at me not knowing how to react. She didn’t understand I was being sarcastic but she still laughed anyway. So I thought let’s leave it at that and that was the end of that conversation.
This is just one scenario, there have been plenty more over the years but as it’s happened so many times, I’ve stopped keeping count. For as far I can remember, comments like this have been said, just not to me but to many other dark skin girls in my family and within my friends circle, but luckily I come from a strong unit of friends and family and comments like this have never affected us. The problem wasn’t US it was THEM. But it didn’t’ stop at comments like that, people would often say to me, “because your dark skinned, I don’t think that colour will suit you” or ” you should wear bright colours so that you stand out”. Right then! For generations and generations these are the kind of comments people pass at dark skin people, whether it is a male or a female and this attitude needs to stop.
In my mum’s side of the family, most of them are all light skinned, well actually they all are, except for myself and my aunt (not the aunt I was talking about before, this ones nicer!). My aunt, who is my mum’s sister was a big inspiration to me whilst growing up. She never had restrictions on what colours to wear and she would always wear bright bold colours. Whilst she was growing up, she was made fun of and people would make similar comments to her about her skin colour but she told me that it never got to her, she just realised that in our community that sort of behaviour was normal and people felt so open to make comments like that. She didn’t care what people thought of her skin tone. In fact, being the only dark skinned sibling among her brothers and sisters, she wanted my mum to have a dark skinned baby, as this baby would be the first grandchild in their family. She prayed so hard that her prayers were finally answered. and a few years later along came me! My sister on the other hand, who is of a fairer skin tone gets all the glorified comments such as “why don’t you act in a movie and become an actress or become a model”!, but there have been times when she’s got the odd comments of “for a Tamil girl, your really light”. I guess I could keep going on.
Personally for me, I have never been insecure about my colour and felt like I needed to be a different tone. I am comfortable wearing this shade of brown and people’s comments and opinions do not impact me. I do not avoid wearing certain colours just because I am dark skin, and I am not scared of being in the sun, over the years I have learnt to look after my skin, not to become fairer but ensure my skin is healthy. I have never used fairness creams and I have not undergone any treatments to become lighter. I have friends who come from various different ethnic groups, who are all different skin tones and none us treat each other different due to our skin tones. I have been fortunate to have good Tamil friends who don’t recognise someones self worth by looking at their skin tone and most of them are beautifully dark skinned.
Colourism and social and economic discrimination based on our skin tone is indulged in our cultures as well as in other South and South east parts of Asia. Colourism and racism are two different things, it can decay among people in the same racial clang, against those of certain ethnicities and castes. People are conditioned into thinking that being dark skin tone is UGLY. A lot of powerful people in the world are dark skinned, Suresh Sriskandarajah, Martin Luther King, Nandita Das, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, AR Rahman, and even Super Star Rajnikanth. There are probably another 100 names that I have failed to mention, and for that I apologise.
In all honesty I think I just wanted to share my experience and just get this message across. I do not know if my post will make an impact but for those of who do read this, I hope it does change the way we think about skin tones and if you are dark skinned then don’t be insecure and be proud of what your wrapped up in.
Unapologetically a Dark skinned Tamil Girl xx
Hope you enjoyed the read