I’m Indian, I’m dark, and I don’t care.

I love being an Indian, truly I do. With the country’s powerful history, one of a kind culture, and to-die-for food, how could one simply not?

But behind India’s beautiful face, there is a growing disease that our society continually fails to recognize- colorism.

Colorism is a term coined by author Alice Walker, and is defined as a discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone among people of the same racial and/or ethnic group. Also know as, internalized racism.

Growing up, I’ve always had dark skin. I, personally, didn’t see anything wrong with it and heck to be honest if you ask anyone I knew back then it was no secret (with my plaid cargo shorts, above ear length hair, and buckteeth) that I gave absolutely ZERO flips about how I looked. And to be quite honest, why should I have? I had great friends, saw the glass half full, and went to bed at 9:30 every night, there was nothing in life that could stop me!

LOL and then middle school happened.

As I got older I really began to start noticing the things people said about my dark complexion. I remember times when the lights would be turned off in a room and people would say “where’s Aswathi?” or  “Aswathi, smile so we can see you!” Or the times relatives that I hadn’t seen in years would greet me with “Oh my goodness, you’ve gotten so dark!” and then suggesting skin bleaching products or face masks for me to use.  Yeah you read that right, skin bleaching- it’s actually a thing.

I distinctly remember one specific summer night when, after a church basketball practice, some of us girls had gone out to eat. While enjoying our snow cones, a few girls began looking at their arms and began to complain about how their skin had gotten darker over the summer.  I can clearly recall one girl saying to another, “Just be thankful you don’t look like Aswathi” followed by another girl saying “Yeah no offense but I’m so happy I don’t look like you.” Everyone laughed, but my blood boiled and my eyes burned, never have I had to bite my tongue so hard. I couldn’t believe that someone had actually told me they were HAPPY because they didn’t look like me. Those eight words have, to this day, hurt me  in unexplainable ways.

That night when I got home, I ran upstairs, closed my door, sat on the ground, and cried. I cried like I had never cried before. Hours and hours had passed and there were still tears running down my face. I didn’t want to live. The words and comments those girls had said to me, made me hurt in ways I never knew I could hurt before. The things those girls said to me changed the way I saw myself forever.

None of it was truly mean-spirited, the girls at my church are very kind people. But as Indians, ever since we were young we are embedded with this false idea and mentality that “to be fair is to be pretty and to be dark is not.” Indian media, only further adds onto this fallacy by whitewashing (literally) celebrities and actors, along with advertisements that promote the usage of skin lightening creams and products.

But as a young girl these comments had really brought me down. All those stupid things people had said hurt me and the adverse effects they had on me while I grew up made me see the world, and myself, in a twisted way that I would never wish for someone else.

I spent far too many summers inside and out of the sunlight. There were summers where I didn’t go swimming at all. I constantly tried out many face masks and skin bleaching products. I thought something was wrong with me. I edited pictures of myself to make me look lighter, just so I could be pretty. I hated taking pictures at night and avoided wearing bright colors at all costs. There was time when it got so bad, that I hated even looking in the mirror or would start crying while getting ready for school. I would even try to physically scratch the dark from my face. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

But then sophomore year came and I joined Debate and wrote a speech (with the help of an awesome coach) about colorism and what I went through, and it made me realize a lot of things. It made me realize that I didn’t need to bleach my skin or hide from the sun anymore. It made me realize that I could wear my favorite color, yellow, and still feel awesome. It made me realize, that after years of hating myself, I truly was beautiful just the way God had made me.

That silly speech I had wrote made me change my outlook on so much. I joined groups with people who went through similar experiences as me, and shared insightful conversation with people all over the world. One guy even offered me a photoshoot! Through debate tournaments, I met other Indian girls who would hug me after rounds, because they knew exactly what I had gone through. (A little side note; but you can bet, me and that silly speech ended up qualifying for State and even Nationals)

My experiences have helped me grow as a person and taught me that the only thing I had to change about myself was nothing.

To anyone who has been shamed for having a dark complexion, what I have to say to you is this- there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t let others words make you ever think that there is. You don’t have to be fair to be pretty. You are absolutely beautiful just the way you are. 

Not everyone can relate to my issues and concerns. Not everyone knows what it feels like to be hated on for having a complexion that’s dark. But we can all relate to being made fun of for who we are.  As one beautiful African American proverb so eloquently says, “Beauty is as beauty does, a single monolithic standard of beauty is unattainable- it makes no sense. Nature, with its phenomenal diversity, provides a model of the range and variety that beauty may assume. Thus, a lily is no more beautiful than a rose; an oak tree no more beautiful than a palm tree; and an opal no more beautiful than a pearl. Each is beautiful in its own way and plays a special role in our world.”

We as a society have to stop putting people down for the things that make them unique. Whether it be the way their voice sounds, or the type of clothes they wear, or you guessed it, even how dark their skin is. We should learn to love people for all the things that make them who they are, rather than make them feel like they’re any less because of it.

My name is Aswathi Thomas and I can finally say that after 16 years, I love me for me; dark skin and all. My name is Aswathi Thomas I’m Indian, I’m dark and I absolutely do not care.

 

 

240 thoughts on “I’m Indian, I’m dark, and I don’t care.”

    1. I am a pale washed out creature. I was married to an Indian and lived in India for 8 years. I marveled at how beautiful Indians were and it was not in spite of their color but because of their color. I was never one of those white people who would suffer under the sun or sun lamps to acquire a beautiful tan, so I envied people who were born that way.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Perfect! You nailed it when you said “the only thing I had to change about myself was nothing!”
      We all at times feel short changed when comparing ourselves to others. I can definitely relate, as a fair, pale-skinned northern European of short stature and low adolescent confidence.
      Then I grew up.

      Like

  1. Dear Aswathi,
    Thank you for this bold, honest, to the point article to highlight the dark mentality among indian culture, the best true to the core article I’ve ever read, and that too from a 16 year old.
    I am impressed with your honest, mature, real approach to this issue. You have given voice to, I would say, millions of girls all over the world who have been experienced colorism and lived in depression all their lives. God Bless you for that. I am so happy for you that you realized the truth so early in your life, not to care about what others think about your race & color, and that real beauty lies within. You are absolutely beautiful and your smile depicts your inner beauty. As a fellow Indian Christian settled in USA, mother of a teenage daughter, I see so many
    beautiful girls like you suffering from depression because of how they were treated just for being dark skinned, not just by American people but Indians as well.
    Wishing you all the best in your life. Stay true to yourself and you are destined to do great things in life…this is just the beginning!! God Bless you!!

    Like

    1. Well said Abby! I hope more people will speak out on this issue. Both Indian girls and boys are suffering with inferiority complex because of colorism. It was all started with white Aryans invaded India, and superimposed their Varna(race) system on India. Over ninety percent Indians are racially Dravidian or Asuras. Asuras built the Indus Valley civilization, the third oldest civilization of the world before Aryans invaded India.

      Like

  2. Awesome..! A very truthful write up!!
    Yea..there are nasty people out there who shoo others away because of their dark skin tone..
    You may be a total nincompoop but if you are blessed with a milky complexion, then everything is perfectly alright..! Lol..

    Like

  3. As and older African amer man, I want to start off by saying, I’ve taken the time to learn about middle eastern/Indian people and I’m aware of the caste system and the levels of internalized racism.While I know that just like Africans, today there are numerous women from the middle east,who because of this internalized racist shit, are still buying into being white at any cost. You give me hope for the future.Along with the arranged marriages ,this shit must end now. Everyday from my window I see a beautiful young Indian women with African amer. friends,she’s darK and so beautiful.You will learn that the same ones who talk shit about you are the ones who want a piece of you it they can get it.LOVE YOU !

    Like

  4. Not enough ways for me to say how awesome you are, to create these thoughts and post. If everyone else on the planet was a despicable bigot, you would still be that awesome. I have worked very hard to help inoculate my wonderful granddaughters – one light girly-girl and one dark tomboy – against the hurtful, harmful, superficial ways of thinking you mention. From one human being to another, thank you for making their world a little better.

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  5. Great post, Aswathi! As far as I am concerned, all skin colours are beautiful, but I really prefer dark. That is simply my preference. However, the important thing is, everybody should have the same rights, whatever their colour, and we must fight colourism, which is, as you point out, very harmful socially and psychologically as well. Congratulations for your maturity and thoughtful writing and keep up the good work!

    Like

  6. Wow I was blown away by your story. It’s very sad and shocking at the same time. It’s ironic that most people from India behave in this manner. I’m Jamaican born, but grew up in the US for most of my life I have lived in a predominately white community with a large influx of people from Indiam. They try their best to coexist and adopt white culture–talking like whites, doing everything on earth to be perceived as being white, and the sad thing is, the same whites that they worship hate their guts!! For myself I’m friends with both. Ironic isn’t it that I–the dark skinned man from Jamaica–am the beautiful, powerful, accomplished, and all things great, and the happy medium between both. I love being black! Check it out, black is the only color that as it ages it becomes even more beautiful, and you can take that to any bank. Thanks Miss Thomas for shining this light on India’s dark side.

    Like

  7. Wow! I was blown away by your story. It’s very sad and shocking at the same time. It’s ironic that most people from India behave in this manner. I’m Jamaican born, but I have lived in the US for most of my life. I live in a predominantly white community with a large influx of people from India. They try their best to coexist and adopt white culture–talking like whites, doing everything on earth to be perceived as being white, and the sad thing is, the same whites that they worship hate their guts!! For myself I’m friends with both. Ironic isn’t it that I–the dark skinned man from Jamaica–am the beautiful, powerful, accomplished, and all things great, and the happy medium between both. I love being black! Check it out, black is the only color that as it ages it becomes even more beautiful, and you can take that to any bank. Thanks Miss Thomas for shining this light on India’s dark side.

    Like

  8. I enjoyed your post, Aswathi.

    I write superhero books for kids, that help them discover their super powers. 🙂
    These books feature heroes from various countries.

    One of the heroes is named “Untouchable Girl.”

    She’s a 15-year old Dalit.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Aswathi.

    Like

  9. Great to hear your thoughts on something that many people think but dare not say. Students like yourself will make this issue less of a problem as time goes on. Remember that you are
    ” Dark and Lovely” !

    Like

  10. Kudos to you. A beautiful dark skinned woman. I went back to my Indian roots a few years ago, after spending a blissful week chasing and basking in the Caribbean sun. A cousin who I hadn’t seen since childhood said out loud, “wow, you were so much prettier when you were more fair”. It took me a minute to comprehend where she was coming from – poor thing, a victim suffering from that shitty brainwashing. Such nonsense. I am actually more envious of my friends who have beautiful dark skin, they are aging like fine wine. Rock that melanin girl!!!!
    You are a brave wonderful amazing woman. Continued success to you.

    Like

  11. This is beautiful. You used your words powerfully to conquer evil. Every person with dark skin is standing and applauding you right now. Every person who consider the self a decent human being are yelling ENCORE. Please keep speaking.

    Like

  12. Thanks… Truely thankyou… I am going through all color stuff and people comments about my dark skin tone…all comparison and bullying .. it actually made me hate myself… I cried and craved for fairer complexion…. life is a hell this way..the person I wanted to marry with rejected me due to my dark complexion. i tried to save myself through self counselling but it was for short period and did not help for much longer time. but Thankyou for helping me to overcome this feeling… I now try to focus on my career… Thankyou dear… I really want to be in contact with you…forever… Lots of love…

    Like

  13. Aswathi, only thing I found fault in your statement is ‘I don’t care’. You should have said ‘I.am proud of it’. We brown skin Indians built the Indus-valley civilizatio, and we are the second largest race in this world. Ninty percent Indians, Pakistan and Bangladesh are brown race. Before Aryans came to India,.they were known as ‘Asuras or Rakshsas or Dravidians’. Indochinese incuding Indonesian s, Malyans, Burmese, Combodians, Thai are part Dravidians. The native Australians who are known as aboriginal are also Dravidians race. Next time if someone say negative about darkskin, tell theme you are proud of it. The Indian movie industry propogating this racism, and I suggest you avoid them.

    Like

  14. Thank you for speaking out for so many Indian women and girls who have been shamed for their skin color. It’s a struggle I still with – mostly with myself still – and I am 48. You are beautiful and more important you are confident and have a voice – and not afraid to use it…keep doing that!

    Like

  15. Hey Aswathi,
    Great write up, very nice, very bold!
    You are right, Indian are openly insulting themselves by thinking their color is not cool.
    Your are great, Girls like you are inspiration for many millions to be proud and to be confident of what they are instead of mimicking, some thing they are not, they can never be, should be..every one should be proud of what they are..btw, you are beautiful too !!!

    Like

  16. Hi Aswathi Thomas in my country I live in a Caribbean country where we are still battling race. Our culture consist of African and Indian Decendants.

    However, after years in this country. We have reached a stage of multiculturism mixed with diverse cultures. However, at one time we know unity but when its political time you see all the pulling and tugging from dirty names of racism on both sides.

    So I totally understand how you feel. Be blessed and continue on being you.

    Like

  17. You know what is ironic is that the poster Aswathi is a pretty woman with great skin. I think honestly all those people who called you dark were just jealous of your beauty from inside and out.

    Like

  18. Thanks for this insightful reflection. Aswathi. Am sorry you had to go through the unkindness of your church friends. I think you are just gorgeous. All the best. Cheers. Love Jody.

    Like

  19. Dear Ashwathi,
    You are beautiful for having a color like yours. That was an awesome write up. You have an awesome smile and keep it on and let the color not speak.

    Cheers,
    Anitta

    Like

  20. Dear Aswathi 😀

    I just read your piece on Huffington Post and had to follow the link. So well done. You’re an example of the standard we have to set in society. Thank you for writing it.

    PS. You’re stunning. And your smile, amazing. Continue to be brave, continue to challenge us all!!

    Like

  21. I first visited India in the early 1990s looking for my roots in Tamil Nadu. Thereafter I visited Indian four times as a journalist. Being inquisitive and a journalist who is not prepared to put up with any nonsense, I found that there are many Indians, especially the rich and wealthy, who look down on people who are of the darker shade and who come from lower and working class income families. I also noticed that on Air India you will never find a dark skin girl working as a air hostess and the TV stations will never employ a dark skin girl as a news reader or presenter. You will find the same situation all over India where 99 percent of the people are of the darker shade. It seems Indians still possess the colonial mind – that everything white is the best remedy. I want to go a step further and say that most Indians who are fair skinned, wealthy, and believe they are the chosen ones – are the most racist people in the world. I don’t think white people in Europe and America even behave like these Indians of India. They are the most oppressive people in the world. You have spoken your mind and I sincerely hope that the powers that be in India in all sectors of life will change their attitudes and treat all people as humans.

    Like

  22. We are human beings. It was our creator who was the only one to decide everything for us. We don’t have the right to judge anyone on the basis on their skin colour. We have the right to love someone and not to hurt someone. Let the people say whatever they use to say. It’s your life and you are not born to impress anyone.
    You are beautiful Aswathi and please keep smiling always because smile looks best when its on your face.

    Like

  23. Aswathi…Really feeling proud of you girl…When I am reading your article I was just thinking of myself in your place. Because I am also Dark.Even I also had faced so many insults like you had. Especially from some of my relatives. Yes, We shouldn’t care. We should dump their talks. If possible we should dump them too.. (haha).. I stopped caring about the people who calls me dark. I know myself well. Yes Beautiful means not about the color, Yes The way we are. My guy likes me the way I am. Not my color. Even he is fairer than me.

    Like

    1. What is this about “Beautiful means not about the color,”? It is about the color because dark skin is beautiful! And why “I’m dark, and I don’t care? You don’t care that you have beautiful skin?

      Maybe I am just jealous because I am colorless. The eight years I lived in India, I envied people with beautiful dark skin.

      At least that is my aesthetic. But actually standards of beauty are socially determined. For instance, in America if slave owners were dark with black kinky hair and the slaves were pale skinned with straight/wavy hair, the descendants of the slaves would be purchasing darkening skin creams and would be going to hair salons to have their hair dyed black and a kinky perm. They would them have a better chance of being accepted into a beauty contest.

      Like

  24. i would always wonder why people wanna become fair … why is that they don’t understand that the color that they have is given by GOD.. and they are beautiful in that.. One need to feel proud “self”… it doesnt matter what color a person is…

    Like

  25. I am 34 years Indian girl and this remind me of my school days when a girl asked me if I don’t take bath in the morning because of my skin colour. Yes, I was devastated and scrubbed my skin harder everyday to look fair.

    I met the same girl few years back. She was of-course fairer, but I felt sad for the life she was leading. With fair skin she could not lead a happy life and this time I wasn’t proud of my achievements but little sad for her miseries.

    Like

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