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Conversation With My Skin Color

Cacophony What is this noise that I caused? Chaos that I triggered? Disharmony that I brought? Discord that I mixed and stirred? Why the cacophony of assorted voices? Why the murmur of hushed tones? Over what? Over the color of my skin? Tell me then just why do you flirt with tanning yourself?

~ Anita Nahal ~

Me: Okay skin color, what’s your problem? I have lived with you for long, never used bleaching creams on you, never criticized you, and only felt a bit embarrassed when my relatives call me darkie or Sanvali (not fair, kind of brown in Hindi), or Kali (black in Hindi), which amusingly is also the name of one of the Hindu Goddesses, Kali, because of her dark skin color. She is very powerful though, a destroyer of evil…oh, the irony!

Skin color: My problem? What are you complaining about? Have I said something? Has someone said something new that you did not already know? I have tried to help you by appearing lighter ever since you started living in the US, haven’t I? Don’t you receive compliments every time you visit India? Folks tell you how fair you have become.

Me: Yes, and that is the problem. You think you are doing me a favor? In reality, it’s very annoying to receive such compliments. What is wrong in being “darkie," "sanvali," or “wheatish” (another name used for my skin color)? You know every time I go to India, some relatives and friends say, “Oh, you have become so fair…wow, living in America has really changed your color. It’s cold there, you are not in the harsh sun all the time…wow! You have become so saaf.” Do you know what “saaf” means, well it implies fair but it’s literal meaning is, “clean”! As if by appearing fair, lighter or saaf (in comparison to before), I have changed too. I am still the same person.

Skin color: Hmmm…I thought you would feel happy. You know in past times and even now, in the US, when it’s very hot, you use an umbrella, wear full sleeves shirts, and try to walk in the shadows of buildings or trees….what’s that all about if not wanting to keep me out of the direct gaze of the sun and becoming dark, or shall I say darker?

Me: Well, yes, I don’t deny that I use an umbrella. But that is because from childhood, in India, we were taught that in summers we must cover our arms and use an umbrella, and also drink lots of water, to remain away from direct sun rays and hydrated. I also get headaches if I walk in the sun for too long and I get skin burnt. Do you remember the time we went to Disney World, in Florida, in the middle of summer, in 2009? I did not use an umbrella and walked for two days almost all the time in the sun? I came back with you covered in red patches from sun burn.

Skin color: Yes, I remember the itch and the burn…it was terrible! I suppose I can tan and burn even though I am dark! However, see, you don’t wish for me to be more tanned than what I already am…and that’s the point I am trying to make.

Me: Oh! I am glad you brought up the topic of tanning. I have never understood why some folks spend hundreds of dollars in going to tanning salons, despite documented research on their negative effects. What perplexes me is that many who visit tanning salons, don’t wish to be dark skinned all the time…then why do they get a tan? Just flirting with dark skin for a few days and then escaping into their preferred “fair’ reality? The tanning industry earns billions! It is said, “…the Tanning Salons industry provides indoor ultraviolet (UV) and spray tanning services to about 30.0 million Americans each year…with an annual revenue of 3.3 billion, employing about 60,498 individuals…”[i]

Skin color: (Shaking head) Hmmm…you have me confused as well!

Me: My other question is, why have the standards for beauty not changed over time? And, as the “intelligent thinking race,” why have we not addressed some, if not all of our biases, such as the obsession over skin color? Maybe the benefits of diversity are still felt only at the surface… no pun intended! And, the color fixation is all over the world, even among the darker skin folks. Folks use fairness creams and lotions hoping to lighten their skin color, in many cases resulting in long term harmful impact. Research in India has shown the unsafe impact of skin lightening products. Dr. Susan Sridhar, the Dean of Media Studies at Hindustan College of Arts and Sciences, Chennai, says, …The obsession with fair skin is being called the ‘Snow White syndrome’ in India, a market where sales of whitening creams are far outstripping those of Coca-Cola and tea...”[ii]

Skin color: Yes, I agree with you. I am tired of carrying the mantle of color for your body and for other women of color. Men don’t seem to receive the same disadvantage as women over their skin color. Don’t folks know that dark skin is so much better for wrinkles…these appear later in life and as one ages dark skin looks younger than light skin due to the higher amount of melanin? However, some dark skinned folks are so brainwashed and use all kinds of lightening creams and lotions, spoiling their skin in the process. Well, as you know money talks! “One of the main reasons for high standards of beauty being imposed on young girls and women is pure economics….A multi-billion dollar economy is built on our insecurities about the size, shape and color of our bodies. The main idea is to make us feel insecure about ourselves and then sell a product that will assumedly make us almost perfect as the models we see on screen.”[iii]

Me: I agree and furthermore, in the process of staying out of the sun, I and many others have given you a Vitamin D deficiency! Sorry skin color for the way folks bleach, stain, hide, cover or malign you, including me.

Skin color: I am just hoping that you all will realize sooner than later that under that skin color, you all carry the same blood and have the same organs. The outside might be different, the inside is the same. Just chill on the color! You are beautiful just the way you are!

Anita Nahal, Ph.D, CDP




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