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?