Remember the story of the ugly duckling? Especially the part where he didn’t fit in because he looked nothing like his siblings?
Let me share a modern-day twist on this story. Once upon a time, a little girl (let’s call her Leah) was born to a lovely couple. She was a gorgeous bundle of joy. Big shiny brown eyes, dark curly hair, and a giggle that could make your heart melt. Her parents made sure they always reminded her of how beautiful she was as she grew up. Leah’s mother adored her and taught her to be confident, strong, and ambitious. She taught her to question the status quo, to not accept anything just because everyone else said so. As young as she was her confidence knew no limits … until she began school.
In school, Leah had the shock of her life. Almost no one wanted to be friends with her. It seemed no one thought she was as cool, smart, or pretty as her parents had made her believe. Had they been lying this whole time?
The coolest girls in school were very light-skinned, blue-eyed, and had silky blonde hair. And they made it clear she wasn’t one of them. They’d tell her she was too brown and her hair was too curly. Perhaps if she straightened it like some of the other colored girls had and became lighter, she’d look prettier. She’d look a little more like them.
On the other hand, when Leah tried to make friends with girls who were brown-skinned, they told her she was too light-skinned and her hair was not curly enough. She was confused, hurt, and bitter. She didn’t like herself so much anymore. What was Leah to do?
It’s clear that little Leah was having her first taste of the different shades of racism. It’s easy to think that racism is far from you or is exaggerated if you haven’t personally faced it. That’s the thing…It can be as subtle as telling a little girl to straighten her hair or as overt as being assaulted by police simply because you are black and ‘look’ dangerous.
At the heart of it, racism and discrimination is a reflection of human ego and weakness. I say weakness because it is weak people who feel powerful by putting others down. Feeling more superior or like a ‘better’ human than others over something as mundane and basic as skin color, race or class is, in my opinion, shows a seared conscience. Prejudging another person and treating them unfairly simply because they don’t look like you comes from a place of callousness and lovelessness.
With everything happening in the world now, we need more love, empathy, and care. For people of color, the scales have never been balanced. Stereotyping, racial profiling, and unequal treatment have been our bane. And the only way we can change that, is for everyone to apply the Golden Rule. Would I want to be treated that way? Or would I be okay if my sister, brother or mother were treated that way?
If it rubs you the wrong way, then don’t do it to others. Accept and treat everyone equally regardless of background, race, religion, or ethnicity. Spread love, unity, and fairness every chance you get. And when you see injustice being done (especially to people of color) do something! Because to do nothing is to silently consent to the injustice. Wrong is wrong no matter the shade it comes in. Evil wins not because of the number of wrongdoers, but the silence of good people.
So how did Leah’s story end? Well, she figured out that because her parents were of two different races, she was indeed unique. She didn’t have to be a black girl ‘to fit ‘ in or be accepted. Neither did she have to be light-skinned to be pretty. All She needed was to love, appreciate, and accept herself for who and what she was, a beautiful woman of color. And that was more than enough.
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