“Mom, I need you to take care of something for me.” was a chat message I got from my 10 year old daughter. This is rare. She’s a very independent girl and asks for help in schoolwork but will never full endorse something for me to handle.
“I was minding my own business doing my class activity and one of my classmates shouted and asked who was the darkest in class. Another one shouted my name and they all laughed and looked at me. They pointed at me.”
“There is nothing wrong with having dark skin color, luv. Mommy is dark too.” I say.
My daughter is a morena. I love her skin color. She has a nice even caramel skin from top to bottom. Evenly baked caramel skin. It’s beautiful. She’s a friendly, funny, smart and polite girl with a beautiful smile.
“I know but they humiliated me and it was so malicious.” Then she starts crying. “I was so embarrassed. Dark people are cool and all but they were laughing at me and I wasn’t even doing anything, just my project!”
As a mother, this made me angry. Really angry. Momzilla from hell angry. My first instinct would be to run home and give her a hug but it wasn’t possible since I was still at my work area. It is upsetting to hear your daughter cry and even more upsetting to hear her angry. It broke my heart. The issue was not about skin color anymore. It’s was about bullying, labels, public humiliation and hurting the feelings of others.
All I could do was listen to her and just let her talk. Get it out of her system. All I could say was to tell her:
- To be the bigger person and let it go.
- It’s okay to be angry and feel bad because what they did hurt. It hurt but what they said was not wrong or false, it was how it was said/ done.
- Don’t dwell and keep on thinking about what happened. I asked her to draw to keep her mind off it.
I asked her if the teacher did anything and she said, yes. The teacher spoke to the group about how it’s wrong to label people and equality and made them apologize. It made her feel better but she was still feeling a bit raw. I’m thankful the teacher tried to manage it from her end. I gave my daughter a hug when I got home from work.
Why is skin color discrimination so rampant here in the Philippines?
It started in the Spanish period wherein there was a perception that the wealthier people were fair skinned Caucasians. The darker skinned Filipino was considered the working class, the poor. It’s 2014 and we are still segregated by skin color. People percieve the darker skinned as less attractive and there is still a perception that they are poorer. It’s sad.
Growing up, I was teased and mocked about my skin color. I was athletic and was always under the sun. I was called negra, ulikba, indio, nognog (hard to translate all this but these were all labels to call a dark skinned person) not just by friends but also family. Just like my daughter, it hurt sometimes not because I was dark but because it was said maliciously and to mock. My mother called me Black Beauty because of my skin color and in hindsight, I hope she said it to make it feel better. I mean she compared me to a horse but still, I knew she had good intentions.
Eventually, I realized I could outswim all of them in the pool so I stopped feeling bad about about my skin color and treated it as a badge of honor.
The Filipinos obsession over fairer skin dominates sales and media. People use a range of products to be fairer. From the more organic papaya soap to scary Intravenous glutathione shots, to chemical skin peeling that really makes my skin crawl. Human skin is not meant to peel and drop off in huge slabs like shedding snakes, people!
It’s 2014 and the age of digital media and the internet has made the world a smaller place. We read about discrimination in other countries and how even Fashion’s new “It girl” Lupita Nyong’o was not spared from having her skin lightened through Photoshop by Vanity Fair : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/vanity-fair-lupita-nyongo-skin-lightening_n_4608954.html
Yet, we can still be as ignorant about parity in terms of skin color and looks. Yet we are too ignorant to see that Filipinos come in 50 shades of brown. That diversity is what makes us special. That mix of different races is what makes Filipinos beautiful.
Bullying is another story.
Sometimes these kids do not realize they do hurt people. They learn from school, their parents, nannies, media and even on the internet. They absorb data and learnings like sponges. They also have to be guided. Please observe how your children interact with others and the things they say sometimes. Ask them questions and opinions about things if you can’t be around all the time. Check out what they love, laugh at, their jokes as well. Be able to discern if your child has the tendency to bully. Observe and take off your mommy goggles* once in a while.
*Mommy Goggles: Mom equivalent of rose tinted glasses; thinks and sees that her child can do no wrong.
Reprimand when needed. Kids can be kids but these kids grow up to be adults as well. When will you expect them to learn?