This is not a sob story. I don’t do sob stories.
I grew up with racist remarks and insults hurled at me. Right from primary school, I had my peers call me various names: hitam [black in Malay], keling [derogatory for Indians in Malay] and various other things that made me resent myself.
In primary school, people hung out in their racial groups – the Malays with the Malays, the Chinese with the Chinese, and the Indians with the Indians – and they’d all usually converse in their mother tongues. Of course, it didn’t help that I’m an Indian girl who couldn’t speak an Indian language – I speak Malay, and I was much too tall and too big to have fitted in anywhere. I didn’t belong.
It came to a point where during Malay class, we were assigned to write poems, and a boy wrote a poem about me. A nasty, hurtful poem that I can recall till today – and he wasn’t penalised for it. The teacher laughed. There was also a teacher who, after class, told me that she wouldn’t call me out in class when I raised my hand to answer because I was “black”.
Of course, I was a kid. I didn’t know these things were wrong. Today, if I were to bump into these teachers on the street, I’d tell them what cunts and what unsuitable educators they are, and they should be ashamed of the lives they have negatively affected.
Secondary school wasn’t any better. I remember overhearing a conversation amongst the boys in my class. One of whom said, “Fazillah would be pretty if only she were fair.” If only.
Everyday, for ten years of my life I recited the Singapore pledge with the whole school. Everyday, I knew it was a lie when everybody said “Regardless of race, language or religion.”
Singapore is a racist country – but that’s another story for another time.
At a recent media trip over dinner, someone asked when each of best times of our lives were, and most people loved their teenage years, or when they were kids. The best time of my life is now – I love my skin, I have accepted my body for how it is, and I enjoy looking the way I look. I do admit I go to extents not to get any darker – SPF 100, staying out of the sun, and a hat whenever I’m on a beach vacation. I like the way I look – but getting darker is unfathomable.
People fight for gay rights, people fight for the rights of women, people fight for the rights of animals. Magazines put plus-sized girls on the covers of magazines to stop the skinny = beautiful stereotype, designers stop using fur in their clothes – but who’s going to start saying that black [or Nutella, as I refer my skin colour as!] is beautiful?
It starts with us – the dark-skinned girls. It’s us who have to stop thinking that fairer skin would make us more beautiful, it’s us who have to stop teaching our kids that their skin is not perfect, it’s us who have to start making the difference. And it’s also us who have to stand up for ourselves.
I watched this clip on Gala Darling’s blog, and even though most, if not all of the women in the clip are of African American descent, it resonated with me. It is a documentary “exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin colour—particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture.”
Watch it, and help this movie get made.
"Rise, Dark Girls, Rise."
P.S.: I’m writing Part II of this article – if you’re a dark-skinned girl and if you have something to say, or if you’ve something to say no matter what colour your skin is, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org