I have a dream…

A while back I saw an article on CNN about this Facebook app and the controversy it caused over the skin lightening creme it was advertising.

We actually have a commercial for a similar product here, but I never really paid much attention to it.

There are other clues too, about the importance of skin color.  Lebanon is known for it’s huge population of domestic workers.  Most are from Africa and Southeast Asia, thus looking much different from their Lebanese employers.  Tourists and visitors from these same countries – or Americans with this heritage – have a lot of trouble in Lebanon.  They are not treated as equals, often not allowed to swim in pools or go to restaurants because it is assumed they are house-help.

The other Sunday, Isla was wearing a white dress, and I was thinking to myself, “I probably shouldn’t dress her in that color – it really washes her out and she looks so pale,” when someone came up and told me what a great dress it was on her because it made her look so pale!

But until recently, I hadn’t really thought about how the prejudice here could be affecting our girls.

We bought them a computer game that they’ve been obsessed with all summer.  It’s a Disney Princess game where they get to design their own princess and then help save Cinderella and Jasmine and Ariel’s worlds.  So they start by creating their princess.  They could spend hours mulling over what dress color, what kind of shoes, what hairstyle this princess should have.  But as soon as the screen for skin color comes up – which has 8 choices ranging from very very dark to very very white – there is no hesitation.  They don’t even look at the options.  “White.”

Even that didn’t really faze me at first.  I went through a phase when I was little of wanting red hair in braids, glasses and braces.  So every girl I colored or drew looked like that.  But one day one of the girls and I were working through her English workbook.  There was a drawing of a little girl that honestly looked exactly like her.  Same hairstyle and color.  Same color skin.  The rudimentary drawing of the face somehow even resembled her.  But when she saw this little girl, the first words out of her mouth were, “I don’t like this girl, she’s ugly.”  No matter how much I built the little girl in the picture up, it didn’t matter, she was not pretty in this six year olds mind.  It absolutely broke my heart.

Not sure where to go from here.  How do you build up the self image of a kindergartener when the whole culture around her is tearing it down?

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72 thoughts on “I have a dream…

  1. It does sound quite tough. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but there’s these books called: “The Ringing Cedars Series.” It’s a series of 9 books about a woman who lives in the Russian Taiga. I think you’d find it fascinating as one of the things she addresses in the book is parenting. She has rather refreshing views on society because she wasn’t raised in nor is she part of society. They come highly recommended.

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  2. I’ve read that this is not uncommon – children tend to naturally segregate themselves, play within their own race etc. But they do it with gender too, and often with things as complicated as social class.

    The entire K-12 experience is all about cliques. At the very young ages is when it starts with the gender, racial, classist prejudices but they almost always grow out of it (and into interest and grade based prejudices). I think it’s because children desire things that a familiar. A white child who’s grown up in a white household and who has mostly seen white people is going to automatically be more attracted to other white people. I imagine it would be the same for a black child, or a Latino child, or a purple People eaters child.

    Certainly, parents should lead (not force, but lead) their kids out of it by introducing them to more diverse settings, but have no fear. It’s a phase that almost all children go through and after they attend school long enough and even on their own, they’ll grow out of it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! I guess an important detail for visitors to the blog: The girls are not white. They are all dark-skinned Arabs and Africans… and yet still seem more attracted to/identified with fair skin. I understand the draw for children to those who are like them, but what is difficult about this situation is that the girls view of what is beautiful is something very different from themselves. When presented with options, the ones that most closely resemble them are labeled as ugly.

      • Really? Well that isn’t a phase, in which case you’re spot on. I like how you mentioned the Disney Princesses in fact, because that one is pretty key, mostly because even the more ethnic princesses are still pretty white with features that are pretty white and skin color that is occasionally tinted slightly, but not enough to make it noticeable. If that’s the big problem, I’d say go with Sage’s idea, not just that particular book but books that present them with role models and beautiful characters of all races (including theirs). And again, I’m sure they’ll grow out of it on their own, but it’s always good to encourage them.

      • Hi Nicolette,

        I’m of Chinese origin and went to an international school in Indonesia where I was surrounded by people of all origins, but mostly Western and as I spoke english, all media like books and movies and TV shows that I consumed were western as well.

        I remember having a picture of myself in my head as a blonde western girl – and always being constantly surprised when I looked in the mirror and saw my chinese features peering out of it. I guess sometimes children get indoctrinated with what they are surrounded by.

        I can report though that I grew out of it as my experience of the world widened and I have a different picture in my head now of who I am (although I am still constantly surprised when I look in the mirror but because I see my mother peering out of it!)

        I had other self-esteem issues that were more to do with having 2 older sisters than my skin colour (which I have also mostly grown out of) and I think general positive reinforcement as other commenters have suggested is generally a good thing. I think it is worth pointing out to them as well that pale people in western countries would like to be darker!

      • I was going to say this exactly. There have been studies of black American children and their perception of skin colour. When asked to choose between a fair-skinned doll and a dark-skinned doll, many chose the fair-skinned doll. During later questioning they would explain that the white doll was “better” somehow. It was all very sad.

        • Yes, I remember seeing the same study. If I recall correctly, the kids were asked to choose the good doll and then the bad doll, and many of them – both fair and dark skinned – chose the white doll as the “good doll.” It’s heartbreaking, really.

          • It’s true that children naturally do this as Kindra Pring says, but it is not in the biology to think white is good or similar is good, or even to be prejudiced. What’s in the biology is copying the behaviours, attitudes, prejudices of other people, so in many ways I’d prefer to call it cultural or social rather than natural. So, naturally, presenting them to other people, fictional or not, will affect them.

          • It doesn’t end there. There have been research that shows that many teens suffer from loss of self-esteem within fifteen minutes after reading a glamour magazine. Just fifteen minutes.

            If the little girls like the white one, imagine how teenage girls feel.

  3. As a society, there is always an ideal that is established for what beauty is. I am pale as pale can be, but most folks laugh at my pasty whites. I just don’t think there’s a middle ground. Fortunately, I believe your concern is a good place to start for helping our youth understand that beauty is not only one skin tone or one hair colour. I fear that I am also at a loss for how one should go about changing the attitudes that a culture instills. Thank you for sharing…

    • Hi there my sister! I too am very pale and have always been teased about it. From being called Casper to pasty to ghostly, I’ve always dreamed of being darker. Maybe its a case of the ‘grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’.
      I’ve actually recently even started coloring my hair red so people will not ask why I am so pale. If you’re a redhead it seems as though people just expect it.
      I think children should be taught about inner beauty and how respecting each other as fellow humans is what is important.

      • Funny…I embrace my paleness. And while I have coloured my hair red as well, it’s more because I’d rather not have boring dirty blond hair! It’s true though…red hair is associated with pale skin and freckles…and I have both.

        I long ago gave up on shaping my outer appearance to how I believe others want it to be. It’s very freeing, and I wish I could spread that feeling to others who feel that their beauty – outer or inner – is not up to the standards set by the world they live in. Unfortunately, teaching our children to love themselves for who they are AND embracing their appearance is no easy task…especially when society seems hell bent on raising an unattainable bar.

  4. I live in Mexico and here there are also commercials for skin-lightening creams. I was weirded out at first, then I realized many white people tan, so I guess it’s a similar concept??

    In Mexico we have similar race issues with skin color. I’m pale, and when I started dating my current husband, my friends told me “You shouldn’t be with him. You’re pretty and white, so you should be with a handsome, lighter skinned guy.”

    You may have inspired be to write a similar post wth my experiences :) Thanks for the honest post. Your life sounds really interesting!

    • Okay…this Commercial is Telecommuted in India and the Model Shown here is an Indian Actor named Shahid Kapoor, and I don’t know much about the controversy you are talking about, this skin lightening Cream does not make your Skin Turn Whiter than usual, like I’d remain Chocolate even if i use it for months. It would just make the skin look a little more bright, but that’s it! :P

      But I guess you are talking about Much Bigger Issues, And I hear your thoughts! :)

  5. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Kenneth and Mamie Clark. They did a study of young girls–I think around kindergarten age–in the mid 30s or 40s in segregated American schools, using black and white dolls and asking the children to say which was “better” or “prettier”. It might be worth checking that study out for possible pro-active steps, or a follow-up film from 2006, “A Girl Like Me” by Kiri Davis.

    It’s still a huge issue, especially among female communities of color. My instinct is that you will find more material to work with by exploring research from black communities, especially American black communities. I’m of Indian heritage and fairly dark myself, and I know that products such as “Fair and Lovely” are only now beginning to be criticized for what they do–but from a longitudinal dermatological standpoint, not from a psychological standpoint.

    As Kinda Pring commented, your best bet may be to simply reinforce the idea of beauty across colors, and especially to emphasize the girls’ own beauty, on a daily basis. It’s a tough job and would require delicacy and subtlety, but the fact that you recognize it as a necessity is heartening. I wish you the best of luck.

    • I do remember hearing about that study a while back. I think someone actually recreated it recently and had very similar results. I didn’t know the names of the authors – thanks, I will definitely see if I can track those two studies down!

  6. People always want what they don’t have, right? I have never seen people tan so much as in Scandinavia, and I know that in most VERY sunny places they sell and use whitening cream. About growing up though, yeah… you see, this is exactly why I am freaked out about the idea of having kids because… too much things to protect them from in the world :)

  7. I always find whitening products kind of fascinating. I mean, that people are so open about valuing light skin over dark; it doesn’t even seem to be a “racist” issue for many cultures.

    As for your girls, I think it’s always going to be worrying that they’re growing up with certain aesthetic values given to them by the culture/society they are in. But you can’t escape that, it’s everywhere. I think if you continue to be an open-minded parent and embrace different types of beauty, they will have that kind of attitude as a foundation and will hopefully grow out of it.

    My mom was really worried about be me too when I was a little girl. I was obsessed with Barbies and apparently once told a playmate, “I’m a Barbie, and you’re not.” I have no idea where I got off saying that since I’m not even blond!

    Beauty and body image is something everyone has to grapple with. I’m half Chinese, half Irish, and I grew up always wishing I had red hair and green eyes. Then when I got to college, I wished I looked more Asian. What if my hair was darker, straighter? Why couldn’t my eyes be just a little more almond shaped?

    I think the solution to trying to live up to society’s beauty ideals is to instead find beauty in what makes you different. Plus positive reinforcement! I’m sure as a mother you will always see the beauty in your own children, and you should tell them so.

    • I think you put it very well when you said:

      “As for your girls, I think it’s always going to be worrying that they’re growing up with certain aesthetic values given to them by the culture/society they are in.”

      Perhaps it would help to draw attention to the diversity of beautiful people in the world, and share with the girls all of the great examples from the comments on this post about how different areas of the world value different ideas of beauty.

      It won’t make an immediate difference, but hopefully it will lay the foundation for a healthy self-image when the girls become women.

  8. On a more serious note, pale white people are obsessed with tanning, that’s not considered self-hating or racist, so is it really that different when dark people lighten their skin? (Is said skin lightening permanent?)

    • It’s a good question. I don’t know if there is anything inherently wrong with lightening or darkening your skin. I’ll admit, I enjoy a good tan in the summer. What bothers me so much is the ugly/beautiful attachment that these little girls put on certain skin colors…

    • I think it IS different from white people who like tanning, in some ways. Although both are examples of people changing themselves to fit not-so-realistic beauty ideals, being pale in the US or Canada may earn you some jeers of “pastiness” but there are no where near the same issues of classism and other prejudices that dark-skinned people face in cultures and societies where pale skin is valued.

      On the other hand, I think when people start accusing the people doing the skin lightening of being racist or self-hating, the actual problem is not being addressed. It’s like when Asians get flak for getting eyelid surgery, with accusations of “wanting to look white”. For most individuals, it has nothing to do with wanting to look more Caucasian, although the bigger picture–the fact that big eyes/light skin is a beauty ideal may have something to do with white privilege.

  9. If you’re sincerely concerned about body issues, skin color is only one (very large) portion of the equation. Disney, IMHO, exemplifies the early manipulation of body image in children, especially girls. Look at those “Disney princesses” the girls are fawning over – breast size, waist size, nubile facial features. Then, of course, there’s the plot lines.

    This is a super hot topic for me, as I have a young daughter. Here’s something I wrote about it not long ago:
    http://mamaleche.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/raising-a-princess-who-is-not-a-princess/

    I’m just beginning to compile a list of resources related to princesses, fairy tales and body image:
    http://mamaleche.wordpress.com/conscious-parenting-resources/resources-princesses-and-fairy-tales/

    Please share with me good suggestions you may get as a result of this post so I can add them to the list!

    In the meantime, might I suggest you yank the Disney princess game? According to WebMD, “In one recent study, researchers found that TV programs focused on appearance are swaying the self-esteem of girls as young as 5.” That’s just talking about television – it’s not even counting billboards, magazine ads, online ads, video games, books, imprints on t-shirts, etc.

    Thanks!

    (WebMD Reference: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/helping-girls-with-body-image)

  10. Over the period of time- we all have been obsessed with white skin. Ask anyone with dark skin.. Reason-?? Many and perhaps none.
    In India, people are still very much paranoid about skin color- no matter how their son may be; they would always want- slim, tall, beautiful, working (and yet), homely, VERY FAIR girl..!!
    I guess clear and healthy skin is now confused with FAIR skin.. the paler the better..

  11. I posted this exact article on my fb account (before deleting said account) and sadly, most of the comments I got were “well, it’s just like using self tanner”. It’s not. In the Philippines brides to be fall over themselves to whiten their skin by any means possible…bright, white is good; dark skin is not. During colonial times you were considered a cut above the rest if you had spanish blood and were therefore not a complete native. There’s a lot of that attitude left over today, though people are forgetting it stems from injustice. The prejudices are that lighter skinned people are richer and more sophisticated (foreign blood, foreign money?)and darker skinned people are poor and ignorant (come from poor provinces, do manual labor out in the sun). My mother used to encourage us to put clothes pins on our noses to make them less flat. A Puerto Rican friend’s mother used to wash her daughter’s hair in milk to straighten it out. Anything to make us look more white, less non-white, more beautiful.

    Thank you so much for this post and opening up this discussion. Two documentaries to check out that might be of interest: Chris Rock’s ‘Good Hair’ about the history and industry that surrounds why African-American women do what they do with their Hair. And Mehrdad Oskouei’s ‘Nose, Iranian Style’ about the rhinoplasty epidemic in Iran where girls are given nose jobs as presents so they can look like Nicole Kidman.

    • Thanks for the recommendations – both documentaries sound really really interesting.

      As a side note, Beirut is also well-known for it’s plastic surgery. I saw a statistic once that between 70 and 80% of Lebanese women have at least one cosmetic surgery in their lifetime. You can actually get a bank loan to pay for it!

  12. It’s amazing and wonderful that you have noticed this issue. That has to be a great first step. I was chubby growing up and because of that I always thought I was ugly (http://wp.me/pY8MO-4P). I’m 30 now and I’m just starting to love my body and tell myself I’m beautiful no matter how large I am. Good luck helping your daughters understand how beautiful they are. In every culture it’s one of the hardest things for a woman to understand.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  13. Reading that children learn from the society they have to get an estereotipe since they are only 2, 3 o even a year old is a problem that has to make us worry. But I think that family behavior is stronger than any perjugde in our lives, my sister is only 14 -well, actually, she is not a little girl-, but she and I were raised with principles about this topic. If your family gives you the enough education to distinguish between what’s or not wrong, you might be prepared to deal with people that think different about all of this…If not, you might lose etics in front of them…I don’t know if I expressed good myself, but this was a good post. Greeting from Peru. =)

  14. I read something that said that parents are too afraid to really talk to their children about race… it’s such an uncomfortable subject that they just stick to parroting things like “everyone is equal” and “everyone is just like us” without really explaining to their children what it MEANS to be a different race or have different color skin.

    The kids don’t understand the message because clearly other people are not “exactly like them” and so all they learn is that it’s “bad” to point out the difference or talk about it.

    The book suggested that if parents would simply explain that people’s ancestors come from different parts of the world and that is why their skin color is different, or something to that effect, then children would be satisfied and feel much better. They just want a simple explanation, but many parents fear that any sort of statement can be construed as racist and avoid it like the plague.

    For your daughters, I would suggest reinforcing cultural pride… explaining why they look “different” and why they should be proud of it. Point out women of color as beautiful, not just ones that “look” beautiful but that are strong, beautiful role models.

    I wish I could remember the name of that book, it explains it much better than I can! Haha!

    • Haha, you did a fine job explaining. I like the idea of a simple explanation. I think we adults complicate things so much, when for kids a simple answer would do just as well, if not better! :)

    • I remember that we had a series of lessons in primairy school, it was called “the study of peoples” (freely transated). I, as did the rest of the class, found it very interesting. The teacher told us about different countries and their culture and about the people who lived there.
      I remember that during that time a newspaper was visiting the school and not much later there was an article in the paper saying that our school was racist since it had lessons on different races. Our school was pretty much almost all white…
      I didn’t understand why our school was racist because I really enjoyed those lessons and it made me understand why my neighbourhood friend looked differend from me, it wasn’t because he was acctually different but because his ancestors came from another country.
      And I didn’t understand that stating that people from western europe are mostly fair skinned (strange to call it fair skinned, doesn’t fair mean something like beautifull?) and people from Africa mostly have dark skin is racist…

      What I also noticed was that there were no dark skinned barbies in the store. Barby in it self is not really a good rolemodel since she is too skinny to even have a stomach, but all the barbies I had and could buy, are white… Strange isn’t it?

  15. Taking image cues from mass production is the norm these days, and I’m sure as a parent it must be really vexing.

    The Sun can change anyone’s skin color . . . a very mutable thing.

  16. I agree with the comments above and would like to add that,you could get the girls to see examples of the extraordinary lengths young girls and women go through just to be darker,this might be an exercise for them to see their own skin is what alot of girls in the west who are fair desperately want! Then they’ll think twice about wanting to be paler and unhappy with their skin colour maybe.

  17. I guess there isn’t much surprise that there is a general attraction toward characters we are exposed to who have relatively fair skin. Media proliferates it, and even throughout history, colonizers have always been those who have lighter skin. So I guess this is why the overall thinking of society is, lighter skinned people are more attractive because they are more powerful.

    I’m from Southeast Asia, and even in our country, there is an overall obsession to be whiter. It’s all over the billboards and TV ads. What’s ironic is, most of the natives in our country are more hued, and it’s the market dominant minority such as families with Chinese and Spanish heritage who are regarded as more attractive. Interestingly, they are also the families who own the big conglomerates in the country.

    The stigma is deeply entrenched, I think. It’d be good to expose the kids to other cultures and instill in them that beauty is beyond skin color. I think my parents did a good job doing that. :)

    Nice blog entry!

  18. It depends on a person’s perception. Being a fair person, I get compliments sometimes for my skin. But I digress – blemishes are more apparent on fair skin than tanned/dark skin. All in all, the best skin is not about colour – it’s as long as the person’s healthy, happy & confident.

    Sometimes though, it’s just that we want what we don’t have. Eg, fair skin people wanting to have tan or dark skin people buying whitening products.

  19. I noticed this a lot while I lived in Ghana and Taiwan. Skin whitening products galore and preferential treatment towards lighter people. It’s a huge problem all over the world.

    I also find it ironic that in the US the popular thing is to be tan. It seems so strange that people all over the world are trying to be lighter to fit the medias images of the west, while America is trying to get tan.

    I wish everyone could just love their own skin.

  20. I must be living in a bubble because I’ve never seen this ad, or anything like it. In fact, I have some family friends with darker skin who tan regularly to get even darker–I’d GLADLY give up my fair skin and frustrating freckles for a darker shade any day. How superficial we can all be.

    • Maybe not a bubble… but the States maybe? I can’t remember ever seeing a product like this is America. I have a feeling there would be way too much protest over it…

      • We have these same products in the United States. Most of the marketing is on “ethnic” stations/radio and broadcasting during “ethnic” shows. You’ll see the products in the “ethnic” aisle at stores.

        It’s very frustrating and any parent/family trying to combat this has to be diligent and ready to explain what these things/products really mean.

        My mother-in-law (MIL) is white and my husband is biracial. With my MIL living with us and me raising children of color in a not so diverse part of the United States, I often have to talk with my MIL with some of the “privileged” things she says around my children. Being white, she as not had to think about some of things – which confused me because she raised three biracial children of her own. Hmmm…

        It’s a challenge but well worth it if you want children who are well adjusted and proud of who they are.

        My husband’s sister and twin brother have children who all look white – and that really makes things a bit complicated when people want to know why my kids “turned out so dark”.

        My MIL was out and about with my son and some white woman wanted to know from where my son had been adopted. My MIL was speechless. She’s getting it – slowly but surely.

        K of IAFN
        http://www.itsafullnest.com

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  23. It has been show throughout history that societies find most beautiful the people in power, its a survival mechanism. You want to breed with the race or people in power to give your offspring the best chance of survival. Smaller eyes used to be considered beautiful in china because barbarians had such large eyes, but once Americans and Europeans took power it changed to large eyes.
    I dont think people should take it so personally, it’s just how we are built, it’s your responsibility to find self esteem in yourself and not have to rely on this centuries racial beauty fad. China is actually soon to become a dominant super power, at which point the cultural diffusion around the world will make little girls pick little asian dolls. Thats not to say you should judge or hate the non ruling races, you shouldnt hate anyone! or judge anyone! But trying to force something down out throats that our genetics dont like is no good. There’s other ways to be attractive then just looks. Cheers.

  24. It is difficult to comment on this kind of racism, I believe in particular that humans should live in all parts of the world because they are not landowners are just a few simple users interns.
    When there is racism, is when there is no other concern, there are opulence, not lacking anything to think or want, when they have overcome famine, war and other difficulties or circumstances of life. As they do not suffer invalides, they do not have physical problems, I think
    all of them do not care about skin color.

  25. I do think that grade school is very cliquey and I work with women from all walks of life, ages, ect. with my job and we never seem to be happy with who we are. We can always be skinnier, prettier, ect. I wish that the Disney Princesses were more diverse too, but it’s hard to change things when there’s peer pressure and other stuff going on too.

  26. Hi there… I am an elementary school teacher, so I see a lot of kids and have a deep sympathy for the struggles of growing up. It is hard for parents to make their kids feel beautiful… not to say that trying is a bad thing.
    Every kid feels insecure about their looks… at least, I think they do. I was always described as cute, etc… now I think I may have become a “handsome” man… whatever that means… but growing up, whenever I looked in the mirror, I saw a funny monkey face… I grew to love the monkey, but all the same.

    Anyway – probably better to focus on letting her develop her mind and her skills. Let her discover the real value in her heart and mind, rather than basing any of your decisions on reinforcing some sick cultural obsession with superficialities.

    I am sure your daughter is beautiful, inside and out. She is lucky to have a mom who cares so much!! Just love her… it’s an uphill battle…

    Trust me… I am a guy… I hate the “magazine rack” and the whole industry of perpetuating insecurity and unhappiness through comparison of ourselves with some arbitrarily decided image of “beauty…

    Excuse my rant.

  27. I can distinctively remember kindergarten and first grade noticing people were different, but never giving a thought to things like “race” or ethnicity. One was the kid whose house always smelled like curry, another was the kid with the funny last name (Li), and another was the girl with the beads and braids in her hair. It is only looking back that I realized these classmates were Indian, Asian, and African American, respectively. Kids may segregate themselves biologically, but I think adults reinforce negative aspects of that segregation.

    A school in Prescott, Arizona recently painted a mural on its exterior walls. The mural is of children being good stewards of the Earth – and the central image is of a hispanic child with brown skin. Due to complaints, the artists were asked to lighten the skin tone of the figures. Unbelievable.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/06/04/20100604arizona-mural-sparks-racial-debate.html

  28. I hit on this post cause i saw the picture and it’s for an Indian ad that’s currently splashed over all our billboards in Bombay. But this isn’t the only fairness cream available. each and every brand – ponds, l’oreal, garnaire, etc, have products that claim to increase fairness “by two whole tones… measure and see!”
    I work in the media so recently, while I was still working with this education supplement for a reputed newspaper, we received a press release from a brand for women saying they wanted to “contribute to our paper with articles authored by the folks at this company. You see, I should also mention, they these ad campaigns at aimed at people’s psyche. “If you’re fair, you could become an airhostess, model, sports presenter, shah rukh khan!” So they wanted to contribute with articles that had headlines like: “Lovely careers for the fair gender”. We of course laughed it off and sent sarcastic emails back refusing quite flatly. But while people are discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, I keep trying to explain to people (or whoever will listen really :D) that it isn’t rascism at plat. It’s the act of making people feel inadequate just the way the are so someone can earn an extra buck selling a cream with so much of bleach that’ll fry your tissue to a crisp in less than 10 years.

    Thanks for sharing this by the way. It was really refreshing to know that the world at large too notices these things and cares to comment. Cheers.

  29. I remember some of the controversy about this ad, and at first it instantly appalled me, but then it just made me think of how many fair skinned girls think they have to spend money on tanning-related products (and get skin cancer along the way) to become darker too. That doesn’t make the problem go away, especially since the example I listed has less to do with race, and more to do with a style, however silly it may be, but it does suggest that the problem of being comfortable in your own skin is a universal thing, even for fair skinned people.

    • I can’t find the actual application on Facebook. From what I read it is in the Indian market only (???). The product is produced by Vaseline (and the app as well). If you are in India, you may be able to do a Facebook search on it, but I didn’t have any luck finding it.

  30. I’d say that just by noticing that you’re already a winner. I couldn’t give parenting advice but as a young person myself, I can tell you that just by watching you are already a great parent.

  31. I love this post. This is something that actually affects little girls. Im very white, and in America nothing like this ever happened to me, but when I moved to Pakistan, where almost everyone is tan, or of a darker skin tone, I immediately noticed how beautiful girls, girls that i envied for their bone structure or almond eyes would come up to me and say you’re so lucky, so much prettier because of your fair complexion.
    Its disturbing to see how color still affects our minds, and how we feel about ourselves.

  32. I’ve heard a few parents talk about these issues recently. I remember hearing from one dad who use to make a habit of telling his daughter all kinds of positive things until it really sunk in deep and he’d notice his input start to affect her beliefs about how great of a little person she actually was.

    All the best to you mate.


    Trindaz on fedang

  33. I had no idea that discrimination and attitudes like that were so prevalent in that part of the world, you never really hear that being discussed. Thanks for the post- thought provoking.

  34. Ok, I am really, really late weighing in on this topic, although I thought the post was good when I read it, and I have seen skin whitening creams and laughed with my darker skinned friends that they are trying to lighten and I am trying to darken and how odd that all seems to us.

    I am the daughter of a mixed race mother whose family always tried to deny the mixed race. (Native American, but the generations before my mother they insisted that they were just darker Germans, from the south, that is all.) I married a man who is dark, but of that dark, he is also mixed between two races. I call my kids mutts when they want to know what they are! :) (Just kidding… sort of!) I am the whitest of my siblings – a fact that brought me much grief growing up since I wanted to look more Native American than I did. I grew up overseas, so was constantly surrounded by dark people. I don’t think it was until into high school that I stopped looking in the mirror and expecting myself to be dark. I identified as a darker person. But I appear mostly white.

    SO I married a darker person. He looks more “normal” to me. :) No, just kidding again – I love him, that is why I married him, but I like that he is dark, too.

    But my kids are in a little school where we are that is very well mixed. We have less than 100 kids and the nationalities range from Polish to Korean to Ethiopian to Romanian to Indian… and a few whites thrown in, too.

    I work in the school often enough, so I am around these kids and hear what they say. I strongly disagree with the poster who said that kids automatically group their color. I think that is trained into them.

    I remember when my son (the lightest of my sons) was in first grade and was telling us about his best friend. He had been talking about him for weeks, but I couldn’t place this child since it was his first year there. Finally, I thought I knew who he was talking about an asked, “Oh, is N. A. that little black kid in first grade?”

    My son stopped in complete shock and looked at me. He said, “Mom! N.A. is NOT black! He is well, sort of a brown, like a chocolate type of color.” (now, let me tell you that N.A. is one of the blackest of the black Ethiopian kids – a drop dead gorgeous child.) Then my son tipped his head and surveyed me with utter puzzlement when I told him that it is just what people call people like NA – they call him black and they would call people like me white. My son gave me a look of total disdain for our stupidity and said, “Mom! There is no one in our class that is black or white. We are all just different shades of brown.”

    You might think that my son was different being raised in a bi-racial family (although his dad is not black… not even chocolate colored, either!, but then this year it happened again.

    Carter is a little blond, very white blond kid in the kindergarten. His best friend and partner in crime for two years has been Caleb, who is behaviourly challenged like Carter. Really two peas in a pod! :) I spend time with both these boys because both need um.. assistance.

    For some reason, I always confuse their names. One day Carter was in the class, and I walked over and said, “Hi Caleb!” He and the other kindergarteners giggled and he said, “I am not Caleb!” I apologized and said, “I am always mixing you two up! Maybe it is because you are so much alike.”

    Kindergarteners are not good at sarcasm, so the whole little table thought that one over. Carter nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, we are.” The little girl next to him wrinkled up her nose and thought deeply. Then she said, “Mrs. Ellie, I know how you can tell the difference! Caleb has black hair and Carter has more like yellow hair.”

    Ah. Of course. Not to mention that Carter is a bleach blond kid with Scandinavian roots and Caleb is a midnight colored Ethiopian. They didn’t even see the skin.

    I see kids mix in friendships with kids from all over and they don’t really notice any difference until somewhere in second grade, but then they just note it as they are learning maps and they learn where people are from, but the color does not phase them at all.

    But, now in highschool, my oldest who is also the lightest of my kids came home with something different. I never knew how he identified himself. He has white skin, med brown hair which was blond as a toddler, but black eyes. He came home one day from his primarily white highschool and told me, “I think besides the Korean and the one African, I am the darkest kid there. They are all white kids, and I am not.”

    That was interesting to me. He is not racist and is not unhappy to be dark, but he misses the racially mixed setting and feels he fits better there.

    I will be interested to see how skin and hair color affects my daughter (who is now 8). She is the darkest member of our family beside her daddy.

    But the way I approached teaching on skin color was that it was the way God designed us all. We all need Vit. D from the sun and we all need protection from burns. God colored the people the right color for where He had them. People up north were whiter so that they could absorb Vit. D. They didn’t need much protection against sun burn. People where it is hotter and they are out in the sun, God made darker so they wouldn’t burn. Simple explanation based on truths, and no value calls on color. God made us each that way for a reason, and it is only different shades of brown anyway!

    That is my experience with kids – you can raise them so that they do not automatically “clique” and prefer their color, so perhaps you can do some retraining to make them see beauty in their color. Are there beauty pagents or models who are dark to watch with the girls?

    But I would agree – ditch the game and get something different. Perhaps a dress, house, or shoe designing game?

    Ok, this is the longest comment I have ever written!

    • This would be a great and really interesting blog post, Ellie!

      It’s interesting to hear your kids’ experience “learning about” and starting to pay attention to color. I wonder how much the culture’s view of color had to do with the atmosphere in their school. Here, there is a lot of value and worth placed on a person based on his or her color. I actually had one of the girls tell me yesterday that “the reason I love you Miss Nicolette is because you are white.” What!?! The Arabic word that is used here for a black African literally means “slave.” If you look like you are from Africa or Asia, you are not allowed to swim in pools or even the sea at many of the beaches here. It’s disgusting. But it’s the reality of what the girls are growing up with. Even the four and five year olds have no problem making comparisons and judgments about each others’ skin color.

      I’m not really sure where I’m going with all that… just the thoughts off the top of my head. :)

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