Deborah is 10 years old and from a young age she has been told over and over again that her dark skin is not desirable. At first she would cry every time she was told this but now she has grown a thick skin and merely tells whomever has tried to insult her, “so what if I am dark, I am still beautiful.” Deborah has sass, intelligence and confidence, I cant get enough of the sparkle in her eyes.
Somewhere along human history the standard was set and it was: the lighter skinned you are, the more desirable you will be. One of the meanest way to attack an African black girl is to speak about her skin tone. I know what I am talking about, I am dark skinned, I have had my share of prejudice because of this. You just learn to live with it. One hears comments such as, ” She is beautiful, if only she was not so dark.” In Mozambique there are certain jobs that lighter skinned people will have a better chance of acquiring than a dark skinned person. For some women, the pressure from males and some of their girl friends to change their appearances is so strong, it causes them to use dangerous skin lightening creams that if used continuously irreversibly destroys their skin.
So where did this idea come from that Caucasian skin is better than Negroid skin? I don’t think there is one single reason. Here are some of my reasons; even though colonization is a thing of the past in Africa, its legacy is still alive and well on this continent. For example the idea that Caucasian people are superior in every way to us and therefore steps must be taken to be like them is still very prevalent. Even in today s politics there is often this strong under tone that for Africa to succeed it has to copy the West. Another is the movies that we watch, the beauty magazines that we read, the authors that we enjoy,darker skinned people are rarely in the spot light. Even the dolls that are sold in supermarkets are white, it is close to impossible, scratch that, it IS impossible to find a black doll in Mozambiqan supermarkets. Put all these and other reasons together and a culture is created that states lighter skin, is always, will always be better.
Even in Pikangikum I found the same attitude amongst First Nations there. The fact that many people do whatever it takes not to tan because “dark skin is ugly.” I think some folk have said this to me completely overlooking the colour of my skin. The bullying that children pour on others who are darker than them is phenomenal.
For various reasons I don’t have a complex when it comes to my skin colour although there are days when I really get bothered by the comments I hear. I pray and hope Deborah will grow up with the confidence I see in her now, that she will refuse the push to try out skin lightening creams and love herself for whom God created her to be cause, ” dang girl, you are beautiful!!”