When my son was born he was slightly darker than normal. An elderly relative commented on his complexion after seeing his photograph, something that was conveyed to me by my sister-in-law. I felt a bit upset – I mean, who says things like that about a newborn? As such, I told her that boys are supposed to be dark and handsome. That was the end of that as far as I was concerned.
Sometime later we went back to my in-laws’ place for a small function and my sister-in-law was also there. By this time, my son had gone through the changes that babies normally go through, such as eye colour and skin colour changes. His complexion had lightened – it was no longer dark. My sister-in-law and her daughter are both very fair. The only thing she said when she saw him was, “Now he looks like his cousin.”
I was stunned and disappointed. This was the first time she was meeting him and this was what she said to a baby and to his mother? I didn’t say anything to her then because there were too many people around and I didn’t see the point in creating a scene about it.
This soured the relationship between us and now I try to avoid her. I understand where she’s coming from. Her family is quite concerned about ensuring that the children shouldn’t go out into the sun because they will become dark. But she is slightly older and I guess I expected better judgment from her. That’s not the first thing you say about a seven month old baby.
I think this attitude can be very harmful to children. This is not only in terms of their self-confidence, wherein their worth is only judged by their skin colour, but also with regards to their desire to go out and explore the world and not be afraid. I’ve seen parents refuse to let their children do normal things like play outside simply because of this fear of a dark complexion.
Imagine what such children grow up to be. Not only do they have issues with self-esteem but are also hesitant and sometimes absolutely opposed to trying out anything new. Worse yet, because they have grown up with these attitudes, they don’t see anything wrong with passing them on to their own children.
I really think that change can only come about through us. If we raise our children to see no difference in skin colour, slowly things will improve. It will take quite some time though.
Project Consultant at DB (Mitkat Advisory)