“Oh my God, you’re Pakistani? No way!”
“But you’re so white!”
An awkward silence would follow every time someone would define my skin tone in relation to my heritage. In the past, my adolescent self would sit there, unsure of how to respond to such an observation. Did I nod? Did I deny it? Still, confused and awaiting stares were the responses I would get every time I would throw back an answer that was different from what was expected. Over time I learned the “correct” answer that would set those impatient stares to rest.
Everything was fine. Everyone was satisfied. Nothing anyone said was alarming or unnerving. Being “white” was something to take pride in. Lighter skin tone was something to be admired and to be complimented on. As if white did not always mean good. In fact, white did not mean anything at all.
Whiter skin was only just that. Skin.
Now, I do have a lighter skin tone in comparison to other Pakistanis. But that does not mean anything to me, and it shouldn’t mean anything to anyone else either. Color is only color. And despite the fact that our society has frowned upon racism for so long, discrimination still exists.
But what saddens me immensely is the fact that this concept has found its way to the roots of even our Muslim communities. Islam is a religion of equality. No one man is better than the other. No ethnic group is superior to any other in the eyes of God. And that is what us Muslims, if not all humans, must understand.
Thus, this dilemma sinks deeper when the roots branch down to ethnic groups. Amongst the Pakistani community, I’ve heard girls being pressurized by their mothers to “bleach” their skin to make their skin tone lighter. Going out into the sun without sunscreen is scorned upon because a “tan never looks good on dark skin.” But my question is: Why does anyone care what a tan looks like on someone who is “brown?” More so, why is a darker skin color considered something that must be altered or fixed? Bleaching and sunscreen — all to manipulate and maintain skin tone?
I remember slowly, as the years went on, I began to question this acceptable response of “thank you.” And then, one day, I stopped thanking those who did not believe me to be Pakistani, the people who went on to say I had lighter skin.
I was not thankful for having lighter skin or for being a Pakistani who did not have to bleach. I was not thankful at all. And quite frankly, I do not care what color my skin tone is, and I certainly don’t respect you if you do.
Thank you! It feels good knowing people understand that “fair skin” isn’t superior. I’m tired of my aunts suggesting skin lightening treatments and creams. I’m brown and I don’t need to be fair to be lovely 🙂 Jazakhallah khair for your article!
This also occurs in the Indian and many Middle-Eastern and South-Asian cultures as well unfortunately, having been suggested at various weddings to ‘lighten up’ or use ‘Fair & Lovely’. It disgusts me that this kind of shade-ism is still prevalent today. Thank you for your well written article!
Beautiful read. Could I possibly Halal-steal it and publish it on my Fb page You’re Precious Campaign? With your credits ofcourse. 🙂
my younger sister is lot lighter than me, and i recall my grandma telling me one day “if you get any darker you will never get married!” yeah right. and after my sister was born, literally the first thing people would say was “oh, she’s so white!” lol it doesnt make me jealous, but it saddens me that people could give such importance to something so insignificant and be so vain
I have a yemeni friend who is of the darker complexion, and when i asked my mom if she and this other desi guy would be a good couple, she said that the boys mom wants, specifically, “a beautiful girl.” and anything other than fair doesnt fit his mother’s idea of “beautiful”. i couldnt stop my tears then…and my mother couldn’t understand why i was crying…..sigh…
I am a Pakistani and I was fair from my childhood and I have pink chicks also but I was white at 2014 but now in 2015 summer my skin goes dull and break so after this I remember that any day your fair color will gone but if you have beautiful face and beautiful eyes that I like most you are so beautiful because this beauty will never be gone I am just 15 and disagree by my complexion
Nida, what a liar you are. If you woke up in the morning to see your light skin was dark, you would go hysterical and probably suffer a heart attack. Stop trying to make people buy your clothes from your fashion by pretending you hate your light skin lol.
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