“If she didn’t have so many freckles on her face, she would be so much prettier.” These are the words that were said to me daily. I should have been use to the sting, but it always felt like a new cut that let me know how I did not measure up. My mom was born with a complexion that was the color of white pearls. She didn’t need to tell me that she did not like my skin color, she showed it through her side remarks and constant efforts to purify my skin through different toners, face masks, and creams.
As a person of color, my story is a common one. The practice of extending or withholding favor based on a person’s skin tone is called colorism (Millner). It can usually be found within a cultural or social group where skin color is divided into dark-skinned and light-skinned. The negative attitudes are not from outside groups, but from grandparents and parents who show favor toward the light skinned children; same race men who ignore the dark-skinned women; commercial and print ads that use pale skinned models to push how light skin equates beauty, success, and love.
So how do we change attitudes about skin color? When I was facing this issue with my daughter who was called, “ugly” because of her dark skin, I had to take a hard look at my opinions on the topic, and then I had to reorganize my attitude since it was clouded by my mother’s voice and that of my culture. This led me to find books, dolls, female role models, and enter my daughter into the world of professional modeling. I did this because I wanted to use these things to have open conversations about color, and for her to understand that people come in different shades, but our worth is the same.
It is hard to have so many negative messages affect my daughter. But ultimately, I want my daughter to understand what I didn’t when I was her age, she is beautiful and smart because she is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God (Psalm 139:14).
Don’t let others label you. Too often when you are tagged, it can stick for long time. It is easy to believe what others perceive, but those things are often based on assumptions. Don’t let people limit who God made you to be.