From a young age, my family has never failed to compare the difference in the colors of skin that my sisters and I possess. My oldest sister, Gabriela, is the fairest of us three and deemed the prettiest at every family function because of it, along with her straight hair, rosy cheeks and narrow nose. My youngest sister, Jessica, on the other hand,is on the other end of the spectrum and was always referred to as “Negra” at family events and told to fix her unruly curls into a sleeker hairstyle. The misconception that being “whiter” is better, is one that needs to be broken because this mindset influences younger individuals to think that they’re inferior compared to their whiter counterparts.
I was raised with this belief that having “whiter” features meant that you were more attractive, so I was inclined to make choices that wouldn’t put my appearance in jeopardy. I wouldn’t leave the house without sunscreen and my younger sister and I had our hair permed every few months. We conformed to these beauty standards to prevent ourselves from being teased by our older family members and keep from embarrassing our parents for coming out so “black”. This is colorism, which is the “preferential treatment of those who are lighter skinned than those who are darker within a group of people.”
I learned that colorism isn’t just affecting the Latino community, but that it is engrained in almost every society, worldwide. In my opinion people are disposed to favor fairer features because of the notion that you won’t be as successful as your white peers. This is an idea, written in Factfulness, on the destiny instinct, where ‘innate characteristics determine the destinies of people”. People in these communities even go as far as lightening their skin with creams and soaps that put their skin at risk for bigger problems than being dark skinned. This convinces several groups of people to assimilate to survive, and to teach their children techniques on how to stay as white as possible, as what happened to me, leading to my misunderstanding. As much as we try to ignore it, it exists and in order to break this mentality, I incorporated The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, and thought back and educated myself about my heritage, how it has led to colorism/racism, and the various ways it is hurting my community.
I don’t think that having whiter features makes anyone superior, anymore but there are still some elements of it that will influence my everyday life because I can’t change the perspective of everyone in my community. This leads me to feel self-conscious of my appearance and tempted to change it to feel more beautiful, but overall, I’m happy to believe that black is beautiful, too. I hope that when this generation becomes parents, that they teach their kids to embrace their appearance and that the world can become more inclusive with dark skinned people in media as well.