We have twin daughters – B +ve and O +ve, they are non-identical. It so happens that one of them has a fair complexion and one of them has a dark complexion.
The girl who is dark is getting darker by the day and I fear for her, fear for her self-belief, fear for her confidence, fear for her capacity to stand for what she is / will be, fear for her own self. I fear for her for I know the obsession with Fair & Lovely in India.
The first attention
I have seen this happening. I have seen this happening time and again. And, I know that I will keep seeing this happening time and again.
Be it family members or strangers, not all though, the attention first goes to the girl with a fair complexion. This cannot be an occurrence of chance. Of course, the girl with a dark complexion also gets noticed and gets spoken to, but with a time lag vis-a-vis her sister.
Both the girls are equally active, energetic and talkative. Yet the perceptible difference in getting the first attention from people around. It is something similar to gender stereotypes, intrinsic to us.
Both the girls are unaware of this at their age. I dread the moment when they will understand who is getting noticed and spoken to first.
The story books, toys, TV
My wife and I used to be big fans of Amar Chitra Katha. While reading the mythological stories, one of the daughters raised a query – Why are demons all dark skinned? Why are devas all fair skinned?
My wife and I never liked any dolls and the perception that girls play with dolls. Our daughters have been a gifted number of Barbie and other dolls, all fair. I read that Barbie also happens to be dark, never saw it in real life, though.
The protagonists in Indian TV serials and series are all fair skinned – women, men and children. Additionally, we never know when the advertisement for Fair & Lovely will pop up.
The result – the story books which differentiate between the skin colour, the toys which are not skin colour agnostic and the TV have been banished from our home.
The formal environment
Our daughters do not go to any formal environment of learning – not yet. There are a host of reasons why they do not go. One of the most inconsequential reasons on why they do not go is that one of my daughters has dark skin.
This is an utterly crazy reason and I know it. For, I know that once the girls start going to a formal setting, someone, somewhere, somehow, is going to say that one of the girls is dark – “kali” and I dread this moment.
Even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes how I am going to face my daughter who has been commented on about her dark skin.
The positive advice
I am in doldrums on how to deal with this myself. So, I was searching on the internet about self-help. I found advice like – place images of beautiful dark-skinned women prominently in one’s home, buy black dolls, for 3 to 6-year-olds: Make frequent remarks, such as “my beautiful baby,” and create stories about beautiful dark children who are smart, kind, etc. (These points are from this site).
On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with any of these suggestions. They are well-meaning. I should actually be doing it myself.
Just that I am not able to. It is my inability to accept that I need to mention/get into a discussion with my daughter who is four and a-half-year-old about her skin colour.
I am a coward
I have never been able to call any family member, friend, acquaintance, stranger who I feel is differentiating between my daughters basis their skin colour.
I am running away from the reality of the need to tell my daughter that she is dark skinned and that she will be biased against.
I am unable to prepare my daughter for the country she is going to face even after knowing that I need to do it.
I hate the society which discriminates and I know that I have been and am a part of the same society.
I do not know how to deal with this. I am failing my daughter.