Scientifically, it is proven that the dark skinned people are way more fortunate the fair ones in terms of being in the risk of getting skin infection, acnes or even skin cancer… Thank Allah (s.w.t) for the abundance of melanine in my forefather’s skin now stringing up knots of genes in me. But as far as science proves something, my mind constantly strives to find the answer to this question: Why is it so difficult to be dark skinned?
I was five and startled when I first discovered why one of our Indian family friends decided to marry a Chinese girl despite the many choices his family bestowed upon him all these years. “They just weren’t good enough… too dark for my liking,” and that came from Uncle Charlie who can cause eclipse every night just by standing near the moon. Then there were the aunties’ chat in the kitchen of our Cameron Highlands’ “agam” house during one of those wedding seasons where one of the many far away second cousin’s daughter in law’s brother’s son is getting married and everybody in this extended family is obliged to attend because one of the groom’s aunt once gave RM1001 for one of our own weddings. It went something like “Atchoo.. This bride is not even half as pale as the pavaam sister of hers, Kumari who died last year in that accident. So, she must be wretched with much worst luck and would drag them into their house. Why do we need this kind of problems in our lineage?”
Too much for a five year old who just loves to eavesdrop into older people conversation while pretending to coo over the poor baby brother of mine who could be chewing the hair off my head for all I cared, I looked at my skin and saw the ripe darkness of it. If compared to the cousins from my mother’s side, they were almost always the favourite of my “atuk” whereas we were undeniably the favourite of my “patti” who has much more darker grandchildren than us. I wondered then, does love has radar for colour? Do we need to discriminate the colours before we are able to love? Do we identify more with colour than emotions? That was my sense of logic then at five.
As I grew up, everything on the TV showed that the darker skin is only secondary…All the backup dancers in the long and endless Hindi songs were far darker than the heroine, the villain in the Chinese movies needs to be at least three shades darker than the hero.. Hell, even the weakest Power Rangers is an African American. Which further reiterates the pounding voice in my head that says “poor thing, you gotta live with this skin for the rest of your life…” hence what has made part of my self confidence only a pretension to cover up the fact that I am actually not very happy when the kids in my Primary One class teases me over my dark skin which contradicts my race.
Then, during my teen years, I became unconsciously obsessed with trying to become fairer. Name the product, I’ve tried it. I’ve been caught up in the vehement race of a “clearer” image myself. When I recently went back for the holidays, everybody complimented me saying that I look different, better, if I must say but they never really said what it was. I asked my mum’s opinion (who is the most dependable person to answer this, of course), what does the compliment essentially mean? She replied, simply “Well, you’re fairer.” So what? All this while, I was invisible because I was 2 shades darker? Apparently becoming fairer did not made me feel better about the world around me.
Why is it so hard for people to look beyond skin colour? Apartheid lost in South Africa or didn’t it? The pariahs are no longer detected and despised for their dark complexion or are they? The segregation in the world has never changed the sight of human being although Allah s.w.t clearly firmans in Surah Fathir (35:28) which goes “And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colours. Those truly fear God, among His servants who have knowledge: for God is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving”. We strive to become better, richer, stronger but we have successfully failed to acknowledge that we are all the same underneath it all.