Colonized Psyches | Through a Mother’s Eyes by Robin Bond | Collaborators – Editor Sam Brown, Title Craig Herbert
Walking down the street, I held my daughter Ryan’s hand. She looked at my arm, then at hers, and told me that she didn’t like her colour. She wanted to be mine.
It didn’t really surprise me when she said it; she had mentioned it a few times before. She’s also told me she wants green eyes and hates her gorgeous, nearly blonde curls that most women would die for.
I’ve told her so many times how I used to tan my pale skin darker, destroy my hair with styling products and hot curlers to have what she came by naturally. I have longed for the clear depth of her chestnut eyes in my own dull emerald.
This moment though, was especially sad for me. I’ve had the privilege of growing up white and never really understood the implications of that. I have, in the past, argued many times that there is no privilege and that these days everyone is viewed equally.
Then, my light skinned, blond-highlighted, curly haired, chestnut eyed mixed children went to school and my viewpoint changed.
I have never understood how such an insanely intelligent and gorgeous girl could have so many doubts about her looks at only 5 years old.
Finally, we reached the park.
A mass of children of every race and ethnicity were playing. From amidst all of this, my son Michael walks off the soccer field in tears. His brown skinned friend explains hastily that Mikey had accidentally tripped a boy while playing, and the child reacted with anger.
‘He’s saying the n word and f word to Mikey’ he explains.
‘Like THE n word?’ I asked, confused.
He says yes, acknowledging that I knew exactly which word he’s referring to.
How ignorant was I for thinking that my mixred children would have it as easy as I did. How Inconsiderate of me to compartmentalize Ryan’s insecurities by focusing on tanning beds and curling irons.
I have to ask this question;
Why is Ryan convinced that pale skin, blonde hair and green or blue eyes is the answer? Why isn’t she saying “Mom, why can’t I just be Korean?” or, “I wish my hair was darker or shorter?” or, “Why can’t I have Daddy’s skin colour?”
The cultural curse that says you aren’t beautiful because your skin is tinged with darkness; the inherited prejudice that tells children to hate themselves because they aren’t that “ideal” colouring.
Kids see it and—more importantly—they feel it. The most innocent and naive creatures in this world see this shit and respond with self-loathing. How are we so stupid? How can we let a single image of beauty or “normalcy” create so much pain? How can we pretend white privilege doesn’t exist?
I told Mikey this morning before school that if anyone ever refers to him as the ‘n’ word to say
‘Sure, maybe I am? That’s what they called my great-great-great grand and gram too. Only stupid people think a single word can conquer someone. It’s just a word, made up by people who were so ignorant they didn’t know how to farm, cook or even nurse their own babies. They used that word to make other people do it all for them.’
Ryan will be a lot harder. She’s only five years on this earth, and a lifetime of ancestral grief trickles through her, damaging her barely formed self-image.
I can’t change the world’s view on what beauty is, but damn do we have it twisted.