When young brown girls tell me they wish they were white


This week I had a conversation with a 16-year-old girl who was explaining to us why she wants to be white.

At first I thought she was joking because she can usually troll really good. We were winding her up and making fun of it. But her face and expressions started to tell a different story.

When asked about her reasoning, she gave two reasons:

  1. White people get treated so much better
  2. White people can do or say whatever they want

This was no troll because the day after this conversation, she was proved right.

A woman wearing hijab was accused of showing no emotion towards a victim of the Westminster attack. This came after a photo was taken showing her walking by while others were helping the victim. A split second snapshot, with no background context, while ignoring the obvious distress on her face, became a viral argument that Muslims have no love for humanity.

The photographer and the lady herself had to come out and explain the entire situation. Imagine having to explicitly tell people that a death scene traumatised you.

When you ask me as a Muslim to condemn a terrorist attack, you’re assuming that I don’t already. Of course terrorism is disgusting. Why are you asking me to explicitly say it? What assumptions are you making about me that if I don’t say anything I must approve? Most of the time when attacks happen, I don’t say anything because I’m struggling to process it.

Meanwhile, a separate image of a white man also walking past the scene got no traction. Did anyone ask why he didn’t stop to help? No. Why? Because, like my friend said, “white people get treated so much better”.

When the rest of our society is alienating people of colour, it’s no surprise that the racism becomes internalised, and we start to hate the colour of our own skin. This has to be true if an innocent young girl, who goes to a multicultural school and has little experience with how the real world treats women of colour, doesn’t want to be Indian.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. And it doesn’t help when Indians themselves buy into the mentality that white is right.

All throughout primary school my darker skinned friends would tell me I was lucky to be a fair skinned Indian. Then they refused to go in the sun. But why? Where does this come from at such a young age?

When major Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan are the face of skin bleaching creams, people listen and it becomes a factor in their self-worth. These people are irresponsibly making millions from perpetuating colonial standards of beauty. We may be independent but our minds and bodies are still colonised if we think fair skin equals beautiful.

If we can’t even be confident in our own skin, of course it’s going to be hard to defend other aspects of our identity that make us unique and beautiful when people are walking all over us.

We can’t expect the rest of the world to treat us right if we don’t treat ourselves right.


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