#7: Brown

There’s supposed to be more to me than being brown. But still, I’ve spent too much time being self-conscious about the extra melanin I was born into. Now I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it took far too long to develop this intense appreciation of my caramel coloured skin.  

My apprehensions about my skin came mostly from my time in grade school. I spent 10 years at a small private school, predominantly white at the time. However, when it came to crushes, no matter what ethnicity or race the boys were, they only ever liked the white girls. I reasoned that I could only be likeable if I’d been white. That for some reason, my brown skin was an impervious barrier to the attention and fancies of boys. 

Sure family friend boys had crushes here and there but that was embarrassing. I needed to be better than that. I needed to be liked by a white boy—only this would satisfy my need to be okay with what I looked like. Finally the day came in grade 8 when I had white “boyfriend” for all of 3 months. Of course following our brief stint, he went right back to liking my white female peers.

I spent years believing my skin was dubious; as invalid. But now I find power in it. There are still moments I’m very aware of it. I’m currently navigating a space permeated with white men, but I go around revelling in the fact that I, with my brown female skin, walk among them. 

My brown skin suits any colour I choose to wear, it glows when it’s tan and in the sun. It’s made me realize that yes I will have to work harder to reach the same levels certain others might, but that will only serve to make me better than them. Knowing that I couldn’t just ride on the colour of my skin and even gender. I spent so many years acquiescing to the idea that I was always going to be undeserving or unwanted, but I think I’ve earned the right to be bathe in its splendour. 

Most important to me, is that now my brown skin is a reminder of the place I come from. It’s the thing that keeps me connected to the most fascinating and rich parts of the world. My skin is the colour of the fertile soil that’s kept my family and ancestors alive. This skin surrounds a body that’s traversed mountains and deep valleys. This skin like fertile soil has allowed for growth and nourishment of who I am. And after everything, I can’t betray it. It’ll be the first thing anyone sees and so I’ve got to give it everything it is owed for everything it’s done for me. 

Chandrika Manjunath Comment