I am a woman with brown skin.
My ethnic background comes from a country with people who have a range of skin colors. All of the celebrities there have light skin because they were either lucky enough to be born with it or rich enough to bleach it. The darker people are the commoners and the impoverished. Their country upholds the belief that they are uneducated, unsuccessful, and of course, unattractive.
My skin color matches closely to theirs.
While I was raised in America, my ethnicity’s ideals never followed far behind me. My family members would always remind me to not tan too much or else I’d turn into something they’d mention with disgust: “black.” And although I was wise enough to know that their beliefs were misguided, I soon realized that growing up the United States wouldn’t shield me from the backlash of my skin color.
When my family took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, all we wanted was something to eat after a long day of hiking. We were denied service only for a white family to be served in front of us. When I was a teenager, all of the female celebrities I idolized were white. Their greatness made me certain that I would never be beautiful. And when I found myself in my first serious relationship, my boyfriend and I talked about our hypothetical children. When I asked him how he’d feel if they had my skin color, he reassured me that genetics would evolve by then so that he could make sure they’d have his light skin.
Please understand that I know you had no hand in any of these unfortunate milestones. You’re not like those people who encouraged my insecurities because you choose to not see skin color. But you should know something very important: Your “colorblindness” does not make you a better person. By not acknowledging someone’s skin color, you make a choice to stay ignorant of a significant part of their identity.
My skin color is the reason why those racially-motivated events happened. It’s the reason why I went through all of the emotions that go hand-in-hand with being darker. The confusion that I felt when I was denied service. The frustration that I felt when I believed I could never be beautiful. The sadness that I felt when someone who I loved put down a characteristic that I couldn’t change. Those feelings are all rooted in the fact that my skin is brown. So when you say that you don’t see color, you’re negating my feelings and experiences.
I know that you’re a good person, and I know that you are only trying to be respectful. But what I’m asking for you to do is to take off your blinders. See color.
Please see the color of my skin because, when you do, you acknowledge the struggles that I’ve had to deal with. You realize what I’ve had to grow up with and what I still have to face. Through that empathy, you’ll have a better understanding of me and people like me. And I promise you that your genuine empathy will contribute far more than your polite ignorance.