Colour Me Clean

My five year old cousin sister told me that I was clean. I was confused as to why she would say that. She had just bathed and she knew that I was yet to bathe after a long, sweaty day. I told her that she was obviously cleaner. She said no, that she was dirty, she was ‘Kalle-kalle’, which in my dialect of Konkani translates to ‘Black-black.’ She touched her arms while saying that. Then she touched my face and said that I was clean. It was the first day of the new year, 2018, and nothing hurt me more than the moment I understood what she meant. She is dark skinned. I am far from from being fair skinned myself. My skin tone is like a couple shades lighter than hers. She found that enough to say that I was ‘cleaner’ than her. That night she said it twice, quite a few minutes apart. How something that was so mediocre as skin colour could make a person that I have doted on every single day of her life feel that we are different, I fail to understand. This wasn’t my first instance with someone of a darker shade demeaning themselves or being demeaned by others because of their colour.

What hurt me in that particular moment, angers me now. It’s been a few days since that happened the first time, it happened again today, and it’s been the only thing on my mind. She called me clean. The pure heart of a five year old kid called a sinful nineteen year old as clean. Her basis was skin colour. I hope that she will forget to think less of herself because of that, but what if she doesn’t?

Who am I to blame, then? Do I blame a peer of hers who was probably the cause of such thoughts? Do I blame the fairness product commercials that she’s grown up watching or do I blame media in general? I don’t remember the last locally made serial or movie that I watched where a dark skinned person had a significant positive role. Why are fair skinned people lead actors and dark skinned people villains? What example am I to give her when my role models ended up getting skin lightening treatments? But, I also can’t remember associating dark with dirty. Black boards are better for your eyes. Ebony is beautiful. In the murky mess that is my brain, all I can think of is: F**k fairness products, F**k discrimination, F**k skin and F**k colour.

Colour was supposed to brighten the world, not give five year olds an inferiority complex. And I know, there are quite a few billion people of all colour and race who will not discriminate, but sadly five year olds believe what is told to them by the other few. As the new year dawns, I hope that she will forget that she ever thought that she was dirty and that something changes the stupid mindset worldwide, forever. Because clearly, there are still people giving up their seats to the prejudiced.

Written by Rebecca Ferrao

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