I Gave Up to Be White

By Anna - August 07, 2020

*To read this article in Bahasa Indonesia, click here.

I have dark skin tone since I was kid, as far as I remembered. No, not because I playedoutside most of the time like other normal kids, I was told that my skin is already dark since I was born. My mother has fair skin, while my father has dark brown skin. Really can tell that my dark skin is a 'gift' from my father's genes.


I was OK with my appearance with my dark skin. I play with friends and neighbor around the house, and we used to go to school together. But at some point, my skin color has become a nightmare that has haunted my life for years since one of my friends start mocking me 'you are black as coal'. Since then, other friends started to insult me and called me ‘black’. They made fun of me. Having bright skin was a beauty standart, whilst being dark is considered not beautiful.


Gradually, my confidence started to disappear, I felt embarrassed and I began to hate my skin color.


I was feeling envy to my friends who have fair skin. They looked great in whatever dress color they are wearing. To my opinion, they look good because they have a bright 'background'. Meanwhile, I don't have much choices, I usually wear dark or black clothing as often as possible to create an illusion so that my skin looks one tone brighter. I thought it was acceptable to dress this way, but I was wrong. My friends stillmade a joke by saying that I was 'invisible' because I was looking completely black. I was so upset. I became very closed and tried to avoid them because I was scared that they would mock me andcompare our skin color,again. I honestly really hate that!


Secretly, I began to pay attention to skin whitening advertisements, which appeared very often on TV. I didn’t mind to be starving at school becauseIkept my pocket money to buy whitening soap and whitening cream. I was in junior high school at that time, and my pocket money was only 500 rupiah. Meanwhile the price of the cheapest whitening soap was like, 10 thousand at the time. So that was quite a lot for me but kept goingand ended up buying whitening product, hoping that my friends will stop insulting me when my skin got brighter.I couldn’t believe I put so much hope on whitening products back then.


Photo is just an illustration. Photo credit: unsplash

I was really naive that I thought the whitening cream and soap would work for me. Later I found out, advert is advert and they used bright skin model for the advertto make people believe that their product results would be like the one showed by the model.The whitening soap didn’t work for me at all, not even one tone brighter. But I did not give up. If this one is not working, then try another product. I saved more money, buying more expensive whitening products and still, nothing worked. 

Insecurity because 
of my skin color still hauntedmy life until I graduatedfrom high school and start workingWhenever I went, people seemed noticing my dark skin and considered me ugly. Some strangers even gave me free advice to get a whitening cream. Oh, please! When I gathered up with other ladies, they told me to pay better  attention to myself so I didn’t look like I came from poor village and looked like I didn’t look after myself properly. I get kicked out from gathering selfie photo. I get compared and people lectured me how to be fashionable. I got rejected from work because they said I was not attractive enough, again because of my dark skin. I was applying job as a cashier at that time and I didn’t quite understand why they need everyone to be attractive for all roles. For them, what considered attractive is when you got height like 160-s while I was only 157, and have fair skin. There’s a saying ‘be yourself’. To me, that was nonsense that time. 


Until one day I met a man who sincerely said he liked my skintone because it looked healthy. This man won my heart and later on becomesmy husband.At first Ithought he was just want tocheer me up and comfortmeas he knew I was feeling insecure and being negative for longI did tellhima lotabout my insecrurity, including bullies and insults that I have been receiving  since I waskid. He seriously said that I should be proud because my skin color is considered exotic and beautiful in the western country where he grew up.I didn’t take his words seriously as I grew up with being pretty means you have bright skin tone, and if you have dark ones, then you are dismissed.


In 2010, I workedin a hotel in Bali and started to meet many people from other parts of the globeSome of them are white, very white, slightlypink, pink and freckled, yellow, slightly brown, slightlydark, very dark to pitchdarkThen I relaized that the white skin in real is not as ideal as it was advertised. They got sunburnt very easily and some white people applied a lot of sun block in sunny Bali. I saw many white people tried hard to get tanned and yes, they do look better and healthy with slightly got tan color. I also met many dark skin people are actually looking beautiful in colorful beach wear. They didn’t wear makeup nor wearing super high stiletto to make them looks taller. What I saw was, they look pretty because they are being comfortable with what they are. Just they way they are. Now this phrase didn’t feel that non sense anymore to me.


I saw many varieties ofpeople like that every day, plus therewas no one in Bali comparingskin colorslike my other friends in Java used to do. Gradually my confidence improves and I learntto love my skin color. I started to be happy to be myself and not thinking that I was ugly, no, not anymore.


Even though I have begun to accept my skin color, I still happy  that my husband has  skin color I always dreamed of.He is Japanese and yellow, but he described himself as banana, yellow outside but white inside, as he was raised and spent most of his life in England.Iused to teasethat I envyhis skin color, and he always replies that he will be very happy if he has my skin color so he looks more healthy and macho. For that, during his stay in Bali, he often volunteered himself sweeping the street and rode a motorbike without wearing jacket. So eventually he got tan on some exposed parts only, like arms, legs and his face. He was quite disappointed that his 5 years worth of tan is gradually fade away as he moved to Sydney 6 months ago.


Since I got married, I decided to give up trying to be'white'. With somuch better financial condition compared to when I was in junior high, and also the technology of whitening stuffs nowadays, amno longer interested in buying and tryingone. Maybe because the place I live now don’t care about my color,and of course, my husband’s support who always assured me that my skin isbeautiful So I become confident toappearjust the way I am.


I guess Iwas not  the only dark-skinned person who feels insecure and feels the need ofusingwhitening products to 'equalize' the color so that we don’t be seen different. I found out that many people around me are competing to be as whiteas possible to the level that I consider unreasonable. The 'white' description that I've been dreaming of all this time isAsian yellow tone. But now people around me are actually injecting serum or vitamin c to make their skin so white to very verywhite and they look so unreal.An old friend of mine who worked on a cruise ship for yearscame back to Bali and was really surprised with this phenomenonShe was shocked because most of Balinese girls are now so white! 


There's nothing wrong with dark skin, it's not wrong to also try to look beautiful by being white. What's wrong is to compare and judging people based on their skin tone. It reminds me of #blacklivesmattersdemonstration.Maybenot that extreme, butthis skin color issue is real, and it happened to me. Let alone in the international world whose skin color can be very contrast between black and white. Even in my own neighborhood, because of my skin color, I am considered alower class and they thought I deserved to get mocked around.



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