My skin tone was a blanket of all of my insecurities. Being raised in an ethnic background, my skin colour was viewed under a microscope. The impact of Western beauty standards has bled into many families of colour for generations. Euro-centric features have become a huge appeal, having porcelain-light skin being the most desired trait. However, that was not a feature I carried, and it was quickly ingrained in my head that that was a problem.
As a little girl, the feeling of isolation clouded me like a fog. I looked around to find that there was no one I could lean on, no one who shared my complexion. No movie stars or dolls to play with. No other girls in my family with skin that resembled mine. I viewed my skin as a trait of masculinity. “How come I look like a boy?” I would ask myself, “Was this another thing wrong with me?”
Friends and family joked, or rather chanted, so often that the teasing became a ritual: “tar baby” “monkey” “turd”. I’d laugh it off, but the words felt like knives, stabbing into a deep wound. The humor was a glimpse into the world around me. It would define me with one look, as if the melanin in my skin meant I was ugly, un-ladylike, uncivilized, or less than human. For a while, I believed it, I thought that “if I was just a bit lighter the world would perceive me just a bit better.” If my skin could just be as bright as the whites of my eyes I would evolve into something greater. If I could fix this one flaw, it would fix everything.
Thus, lightening my skin became my priority. I took matters into my own hands, believing it was for my own good. I avoided the sun like the plague. I tried to scrub at my skin as if they were gold beneath it. I woke up every morning hoping that the melanin would just somehow evaporate like water.
The reality was much darker. When I looked at every fair-skinned person, my eyes burned with jealousy. As I looked in the mirror, I found my own disgust staring back at me. My self-esteem was rotting away with every gaze. Soon, I realized that my skin tone is simply just set in stone. There was no healthy way for me to reverse that. I was stuck with my brown skin forever.
Perhaps I had it all wrong? Perhaps beauty comes from within and is but an opinion? Perhaps I'm the only one who can control my identity? Perhaps my brown skin is a blessing rather than a burden? It was not too late to be proud of it.
Despite the labels attached to it and the judgment that trails behind it, I love the skin I am in. My skin is the veil that holds everything I am together. It is bold, scarred, dark, and beautiful. Its melanated tone is a reminder of my culture and the ancestors who came before me. I am able to look down at my hands and remember all the wonderful shades of humanity. All of which are worthy of respect and equality. My skin may always tint the way I view the world and the way it views me, but it will never be a flaw or attribute of shame.