Dear future daughter: what I’ve learned being a women of colour
22 Aug 2017
Dear future daughter,
I am writing this letter not because I want to protect you, but because I want you to know better than I did. I am still growing and learning to love and accept things that life throws at me, but I have come to some realisations about my experiences that I am happy with. I always wished that someone had told me when I was younger that I was good enough, so I’m telling you. Here are some things that I have learned and wanted to pass on.
If you are dark-skinned, you will go through discrimination because of your skin. If you think nobody has ever treated you differently, listen and read about people who have experienced such things. You may find that a lot of people you are friends with, people whom you love and respect, say things about darker skin tones and natural hair which are racist or colourist. If you think that something they have said is wrong, call them out.
If you are light skinned, you should know that your skin is a privilege. Your skin will bring you a lot of compliments and will make you an exception to a lot of people’s discrimination. People may tell you that you are beautiful because you are fair. You will meet people who will want to date you because you’re “not that dark”. You will be favoured by authority figures such as teachers, nuns, and police officers in ways that you may not even know.
“Find out on how you can be an ally, and stand up for others who don’t share the same privileges as you”
Listen to your dark-skinned friends and try to empathise with them. Find out on how you can be an ally, and stand up for others who don’t share the same privileges as you. Please do not let society persuade you into thinking that being dark is something bad, or something you should not be.
If you dislike your skin, know that you are not alone. Growing up, I would try to bleach the hell out of my skin. Turmeric, lime, spices, sandalwood and an array of different creams all promising the same thing – lighter skin. I bleached my skin until blood burst out.
But, over time, I learned to love my skin and understand how beautiful it is. So, if you are any shade of brown or black, know that you are beautiful. I can’t express to you how blessed you are to have melanin. The sun loves you and will make you sparkle.
“So many revolutionary, remarkable and intelligent women are coated in melanin”
So many revolutionary, remarkable and intelligent women are coated in melanin. Eunice Waymon, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Ruby Bridges, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Vera Mindy Chokalingam, Rupi Kaur, Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati, Ariana Miyamoto, Jyoti Singh – the list goes on. These are just a handful of women who have challenged and changed society in their own way. In other words, you are in very good company.
If you have naturally curly hair, please love the hell out of it. There will be so many people that will tell you to tame your hair, or that it is unprofessional to have curls – do not listen to any of it. Rock whatever style you want.
If you’re hairy, skinny, plus-sized or anything else society may label you as, do not let that define you. Be comfortable with who you naturally are. Learn to look in the mirror and love every part of your body. You do not need to change yourself to be considered attractive. People are entitled to their preferences, to a certain extent. But, if someone wants to engage with you physically, they have no right to tell you to change your appearance, or to insult any part of how you look, or compare you with any other women.
“Stand up for yourself when you are being treated unfairly, and help other women to do the same”
If you are ever touched in a way that you did not want to be, if you are sexually assaulted or raped, please do not blame yourself. Seek help, and take your own time to build yourself back up. You may feel shattered and exposed but I promise you are stronger and better than any person who tries to take advantage of you.
As a woman, you will face sexism because we live in a patriarchal society. So surround yourself with people who are intersectional feminists. Educate your friends on issues that you face as a woman. Stand up for yourself when you are being treated unfairly, and help other women to do the same. Care less about what other people will think or say. If you can do that, no one can hurt you.
I hope when you see little girls who are insecure, or are going through something, you remind them that they are fantastic in their own right. I hope you learn to love yourself despite what anyone else has to say to you. I hope you pass on your self-love and knowledge of being a woman of colour to your children too.
With all my love,