When I was in the seventh grade, I took a trip to India.
A place of rich cultural contradiction
which I chose to take no part in;
I was twelve.
Holed up in my Aji’s apartment
watching the Disney channel, one day I saw an ad for
Fair and Lovely cream, promising to lighten the complexion of the woman desperate for change.
I thought this was a joke.
“Who would go to such lengths to lighten their skin?
The cream probably didn’t even work”, I thought.
I went back to watching the Disney channel, not pausing to take note of how light everyone’s skin was.
The standard of beauty facing girls today
is one of whiteness.
White is pure, innocent, and clean.
A wholly religious symbol that is somehow above,
little brown and black girls never stood a chance.
Darkness is dirty, filthy, unsanitary, unfriendly,
Girls shouldn't be impure,
they are supposed to be Fair and Lovely.
Lightening cream bleaches your complexion,
strips it of colour and identity.
Bleach is supposed to be used for cleaning,
and killing harmful germs.
Dark skin is not a disease, or an affliction,
it does not have to be cured.
We should be raising the next generation of dark skinned girls with a complexion,
not a complex.
Darkness has depth and mystery,
that a flat white cannot hold.
And darkness will not be damaged when mixed with whites.
Brown may be the colour of dirt,
but it is dirt that sustains life, nourished by the sun
which nourishes dark skin,
feeding it, toasting it to a perfect golden tone.
Snow white is betrayed by the sun,
penetrating it, obliterating it,
till all that is left is a small puddle of what used to be
the purest white,
that now screams with a raw, red fervour.
You might think this is trivial of me to discuss,
given that I have not indulged in the rich chocolate
people of my origin are accustomed to.
But it is because of this that I have faced scrutinization,
"If you're Indian, why are you white"?
Never mind that people from India's West Coast
have a lighter complexion than most.
Every summer I spend as much time in the sun as possible, so that I may one day acquire
the deep pigmentation of everyone from my homeland.
I want to sun to tan into me:
a deeper skin tone and sense of identity.
I guess we all want what we can't have.
In a place of rich cultural contradiction,
the complexion of our ancestors,
deep in pigment, history, and adaptation,
is one that should be worn with pride.
To the woman desperate for change,
change the rules of society.
Change a woman's place, change a woman's rights, change a woman's standard of beauty.
But do not change yourself
to fit tired, paling, old fashioned views.
You are not more beautiful the less dark your skin is.
You are more beautiful the less dark your soul is.
To be good, pure, and clean on the inside is what really matters.
Beauty is not skin deep.
And to be lovely is not always to be fair.