An open letter to the mother of her dark-skinned daughter

Dear Momma,

I know this will be hard for you to hear, but it is a story I need to tell you.

Momma, I learned quite young that FAIR was beautiful. When grandma promised me her little angel would be beautiful while she futilely tried to scrub the brown off of me, I learned that FAIR was beautiful. When you tried to use the remedies of old, bathing me in milk, smearing chickpea flour scrub on my body in a hopeless effort to detach this dusky color, I learned that FAIR was beautiful. When you would scold me for letting the toasty sun darken my skin while I played, I learned that FAIR was beautiful.

And I learned that MY BROWN was not.

Maybe you were oblivious, Momma, maybe you didn’t know I was listening and those words went straight to my heart. Maybe you didn’t know because I know you would never hurt me on purpose.

Maybe you didn’t know that every time you remarked with a bad taste in your mouth about that cousin who had come back home a little darker, I winced. Every time you praised the milky white skin of that Bollywood actress over the others, I felt less beautiful inside. Every time you spoke about his new fiancée with disappointment because he could have found someone lighter and more beautiful, I was left indignant. Maybe you didn’t know it, Momma, but those seemingly harmless comments you made deriding others, cut YOUR DAUGHTER’S HEART and let her self-esteem bleed away little by little.

Momma, like these kids ( I too thought that light-skinned girl was more beautiful than me or any brown kid I knew. I know you know this because I once came to you in tears. I told you I desperately hated being brown, and ugly. But then you patted my head and told me I WAS BEAUTIFUL. Where would I get the silly idea that the color of MY skin defined MY beauty…

Momma, I got that silly idea from you. I don’t know if you know that I used to see how the world saw me through you, but today I still hear your words. And, Momma, they still hurt. Please hold back those hateful gibes at her chocolaty skin, his velvety complexion. Please halt the disgusting and unmerited color-bound denigration. Please STOP.

Momma, they are ALL beautiful. LIKE ME, they are ALL beautiful.

Please stop perpetuating a culture, which oppresses MY color. It’s hard to live in such a world. Please shift those words and tell me why MY BROWN is just as radiant as her white. Please tell me often that I AM BEAUTIFUL, like you did that morning. Please live those words everyday, so I KNOW that you truly see ME as BEAUTIFUL.

All my love, Momma,
Your dark-skinned daughter.

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