Brown skin, melanin touched
Like dirt and soil and life
The colors of your family
and ancestors forgotten within history;
You called it a curse.
Under societal conditioning
You never realized until now that
It is a tightly wound cord
That connects you to your heritage.
Your people had been taught to hate it
By those who stole from them
And you fell prey to the same pain.
All brown girls know the feeling
Of hating our own skin.
We try to escape from it,
Bleach it and scrub it
Until we are clean and bright
Because that is what we are told it means
To be beautiful.
We must be fair and lovely,
Light and pristine
To be seen as beautiful.
Only time could gently show you that
Your brown skin
Should not make you feel ashamed.
The only shame that you feel
Is the stinging remorse of spending too long
Trying to peel your own skin off
And attempting to take
the Indian girl out of yourself.
When I was in middle school, I struggled with my cultural identity quite a bit. As an ABCD (American born confused Desi), I felt disconnected from certain aspects of my Indian culture and began to despise my skin in particular. Many of the friends I hung out with at the time cared a lot about how pale they were, and this idea rubbed off on me as I began to feel terrible for my darker skin. Colorism is especially prominent in many Asian cultures and can be unavoidable at times, which was what inspired me to look back on my emotions and write this poem. I hope that all brown girls who struggle with this conflict can also learn to see the beauty of their own skin.
My name is Nivriti Krishnamurthy and I am an Indian-American high school student from California. I love to draw, write, and play the bass guitar in my free time, and I am happiest when I am spending time with my family and dog!
Cover Photo Source: Brown Girl Magazine