Fri | Apr 26, 2019

Colour no index of self-worth

Published:Saturday | September 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM


I am the mother of three boys. They range in age from eight months to four years. A few days ago, a woman, whom I will call lovely, commented, I "...have three beautiful boys who look alike ... . It's just that one is dark." Anything she said after that was lost in that comment.

We know where this negative connotation to being dark has its origin. From the days of slavery, lighter-skinned slaves were given prestige and preference, and allowed to work in the homes of white slave masters, while the darker-skinned slaves were made to perform hard manual labour in the fields, thus creating a distinction based on skin colour. The slaves who worked in homes were treated much better than those in the fields.

While I am familiar with the phenomenon of skin bleaching and the discourse surrounding it, it surprised me that she would even make such a comment to me, intentionally. In my head, I asked her if she was for real. The devil's advocate was telling me to ask her what she suggested that I do about the 'dark one' since she made the observation?

I was grateful that my four-year-old was not present at the time of her comment because we already had that conversation with him as he came home one day and called his brother "little black boy". When we asked where he heard that comment, he said in his K4 class. He said a little brown girl, like me, called a classmate 'little black boy', so he came home and did the same to his brother.

Once we explained that the comment was unkind and that it does not matter what someone's skin looks like, he never repeated it.

I am aware that as long as we battle image perception and the 'browning' phenomenon, there may be need to remind my boys that real merit is not found in the colour of your skin.

I can't hide my disappointment that in today's Jamaica, I have to have this discourse with my children. Before that little girl's comment, it was never an issue in my house. We never thought it would have come to our door, period! This is not the US, where they are deeply divided along racial lines. This is sweet, sweet Jamaica.

It really is disappointing that in 2018, a country like ours with a more than 90 per cent African-descended population, we still have people struggling with this light-dark perspective about beauty.

As a human being, I hope that one day, society will not judge people at all on the shade of their skin. I hope parents teach their children and schools teach their students to be good citizens of the world, considering the feelings of all and taking up their rightful place in society, contributing to the good of all mankind. To the lovely lady who made her comments to me, I am the mother of three beautiful boys. Period!