Recent events in America have gotten me thinking about this whole idea of racism and how human beings- who, by the way, are supposed to be the most intellectual creatures on the planet- judge, hurt, and even kill others solely because of the way they look.
I am an Indian woman. This means I have 2 significant hurdles to jump in today’s world if I want to achieve every single one of my aspirations- one is being a woman and the other is my skin color.
Talking about my skin color seems to be the most pertinent issue at the moment.
I live with my parents, grandma, and little brother. My mother and grandmother were typical Indians back in 2002, when I was first born. When I say “typical Indians,” I mean they had the same mindset as most Indians have- being dark skinned is basically a sin.
I was not allowed to spend excessive time in the sun because my mom was so paranoid that I would get tan and when Indians get tan, we get super dark. She used to tell me, “You’re going to get too dark and then you won’t look good at your half-saree ceremony.”
Every time my grandma saw that I tanned from a day out with my friends, I would be taken to the bathroom and scrubbed with “nalugu pindi,” which is essentially an herbal bath powder that my grandma and mom believed would scrape away all the tanness or “darkness.” I honestly don’t think it worked, but it gave them a sense of satisfaction.
I used to visit my other set of grandparents and family members in India on my summer breaks, and some would instantly say “Wow, Esha you got so much darker this summer than last summer. What happened?” Then the “nalugu pindi” cycle would start again or I would be asked to start using “Fair & Lovely” cream to lighten my skin.
Some would even go as far as to compare my brother’s skin color to mine. They would say “Arya was born so much darker than Esha. I wonder why.”
I just went with the flow back then because I was a tiny human being with a tiny human brain.
Before delving into the now, I want to note that after spending so many years in America, my family has definitely learned to accept all skin colors and “nalugu pindi” is no longer enforced in our home. However, I wish I could say the same about many other Indians because not everyone is as open-minded as my family has become.
Today, I realize that all this commotion around getting lighter is disgusting and not at all necessary. Why can we not focus on the things that we can actually control? How the hell am I supposed to control what color my future kids are going to be born? I can’t and even if I could, I wouldn’t because every. skin. type. is. beautiful.
I experienced some form of racism, however minimal, throughout my life. Some kids in elementary school would judge and say shitty things about my lunch, which mainly consisted of my mom’s fluffy idlis with chutney. My preschool teacher even prevented me from playing with her toddler son- even though all the other students got to- when she brought him to class, because I was the only (or one of very few) colored one in the class and she obviously did not want a colored person near her son. I was even put on “time-out” for however long when she saw me playing with him during playtime.
For sure all these experiences sucked, but what I have endured is nowhere near the amount and the extent to which Black people have endured racism. For centuries, Black people have been fighting for equal rights, equal opportunities, equality, and every time we think that it is getting better, the world falls back and repeats history.
As an Indian woman, a colored woman, I strongly believe that I owe all of the freedoms and opportunities that I was able to get in this country to all of the Black people that have taken the greater hit for us. They have set the stage for bigger and greater opportunities for us Indians in America.
Could you have ever imagined for an Indian person to be the CEO of Google 100 years ago? Or for an Indian woman to run and play a lead role for a show? NO. Because none of the Indian CEOs or Indian actors/actresses or Indians in any field would have gotten the chance to grow in America if it wasn’t for everything Black people did to advocate for equal rights and to prove time and time again that skin color should not matter when pursuing the American Dream.