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"How do we expect others to see past the colour of our skin?"
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"How do we expect others to see past the colour of our skin?"

If we expect people of other races to respect the beauty of black skin, blacks should wear their colour with pride, instead of bringing down others for being “blacker”, writes Leigh-Ann Worrell, 25,  a Commonwealth Correspondent from St. Thomas, Barbados. 

Growing up in a small, generally racially homogenous country for most of my life, stories of black struggle were, in my eyes, mainly interesting stories of inspiration. To be honest, racial battles were removed from much of my daily life.

Moving to China last year was a jolting wake-up call in how difficult it is to deal with race-based discrimination day by day.

But in my fixation in how black people are treated in China, I forgot about the way black people can sometimes treat themselves, and a conversation with a new friend provided me with that reminder.

As we engaged in a casual chat about the challenge of finding skincare products for women of colour in Beijing, she asserted: “One of my friends is really, really dark – probably about your colour, and she was able to find some makeup. I figured if she could find something for her dark skin, I can find it too.”

In a conversation some weeks earlier, she said how happy she was for her “good hair” which was due to a mixed-raced background. My hair was cited as an example of the hard “African” kind which was a struggle to tame.

While not offended by the comments, it did serve as an interesting food for thought: we as black people are just as concerned and caught up in notions of colour hierarchy that we fight against, begging the question: how do we expect others to see past the colour of our skin if we are not proud of it ourselves?

In a poignant Redemption Song, Bob Marley urged us to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.” This message still rings strong more than three decades after it was created. If we expect people of other races to respect the beauty of black skin, blacks should wear their colour with pride, instead of bringing down others for being “blacker”.

Even worse, in some parts of the Caribbean, some women believe the use of skin-bleaching products can pave a whiter path to success and attracting a more desirable, financially well-off mate.

So, just as many countries (like China) still have a long way to go in terms of viewing all races as equals, we too as black people must take a look at ourselves and our behaviour so that we too see ourselves as the same.

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About me:

I am a writer for Barbados Today. I am passionate about women’s rights issues, theatre arts and cats. I like hanging out with my friends, live for the beach and (sorta) enjoy cooking. I eventually to work in the gender and development field in any part of the world.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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