Recently writer and columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted about a disheartening experience. A few months back, his 5-year-old daughter had revealed feeling sad about her natural skin colour.
She expressed wanting to be more light-skinned. And though the scenario was heartbreaking for the author and his wife to witness, the way they decided to handle the situation and instil a sense of confidence in their daughter is an excellent example for all desi folks out there. Here’s the entire thread.
“I love my brown skin,” my 5-year-old Nusayba said earlier tonight. My wife & I were ecstatic. Two months ago, she randomly said how she didn’t like her skin color and wished she were more light-skinned. We were devastated. From the start, we celebrated her exactly how she is 1/— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) October 14, 2021
We introduced dolls of color, children’s books, toys & narratives featuring a variety of characters & girl characters with strong personalities. We celebrated and uplifted her Desi & Muslim roots, but also taught her to respect and appreciate the diversity of beauty around her 2/— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) October 14, 2021
But, apparently, it wasn’t enough. The power, pull, and seduction of Whiteness got to her through pop culture, images, narratives that center beauty and heroism predominantly around white characters. We were so saddened when she felt less than or ugly b/c of her skin color 3/— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) October 14, 2021
For the past 2 months, we made a point to affirm her and make positive comments about her hair, her skin tone, and make sure she knows she’s loved and beautiful exactly the way she is. And, finally, today…she came to believe it as well. May it always be this way inshallah. 4/4— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) October 14, 2021
Unfortunately, colourism is so deeply ingrained in most South Asians that it’s important for the new generation of parents to raise their kids with a healthier understanding of skin colour & ethnicity. Several other people shared their experiences and feelings about the same. Here’s what they said.
My girls said similar things- it broke my heart. We tell them how beautiful they are as is, but they struggle w not having straight hair or “colored eyes” like their friends or characters on TV. Their school is 87% Hispanic/town is 80% white. I am considering move for diversity.— Allie (@ashhtagg112) October 14, 2021
I thought their skin was beautiful and, if they were lucky, they’d not have to suffer so mich from sunburn! They never mentioned their color difference after that and we are still one multicolored family.— Sarah Albers 🌈 (@Nitelion1) October 14, 2021
I hope your daughter keeps loving her skin color. It is beautiful.
I’m always grateful that my parents pushed my sister and I to read a lot (intellectual), study hard and get high grades (intellectual), exercise weekly (physical), spend time with friends and family (emotional), etc. These were crucial in making me a happier, healthier person!— Sarah Caesar (@caesarah30) October 14, 2021
It took me about 25 years to embrace and love my brown skin. 🥺❤️— Dani (@Dani41982116) October 14, 2021
This made me cry. What a crazy world we live in that the beautiful child of two accomplished and loving parents would ever regret the color of her skin.— Patty O’Furniture (@SheeranColleen) October 14, 2021
South Asian culture has categorized dark skin as ugly for thousands of years. It’s a disgusting cultural trait.— GoldBlooded (@GoldBlooded44) October 14, 2021
Representation matters so much. Thirty years ago my white daughter, who has dark curly hair and dark brown eyes, opted for the few black dolls available because she felt they looked more like her than all the white dolls.— TerriO (@terri_opp) October 14, 2021
You done good, Ali. Good genes, good nurture.— Sunni M. Khalid (@KhalidSunni) October 14, 2021
So sad she ever felt less than.— GrammyVirgo (@Grammyvirgo) October 14, 2021
I love my brown skin. sometimes when I spend a lot of time time in the sun, I get so dark and I love it.— dinesh nandan (@dineshnandan) October 14, 2021
Us desis definitely need to stop with our biases about skin tones.