Foreign Territory

As a female minority in my high school, I was surrounded by mostly white kids. The pressure of being white and fitting in was something I didn’t really understand. This goes back to elementary school actually. I remember being made fun of on the playground for being “different” and why I was so “dark.” I remember going home to my mother and telling her that I didn’t want the food she made me and to buy snacks like the ones my classmates had. I wanted to fit in. I found myself feeling anxious and depressed but could not comprehend it. To be completely and brutally honest, I was ashamed of the colour of my skin and that my parents were immigrants.

I remember in grade 9 I wanted to try out for the cheerleading team and thought maybe it would help me fit in? But when the time came, I was too intimidated and decided to join a cheerleading team outside of school to “practice my skills” and I became a CheerForce Tiger. Here, I was the ONLY brown-skin girl. By grade 10 I finally tried out for the team and was ecstatic but again, I was the ONLY brown-skin girl. I didn’t notice that all my friends were white until I could point out the oriental or brown groups of students hanging out with each other. I remember thinking, I didn’t want to be them. This pressing idea of wanting to be white and being ashamed of the colour of my skin continued up until university.

But why?

When obnoxious people would ask me, “what is your background?” I would tell them, “I am Filipino” and my friends would correct me by saying, “you are so white” and we would laugh about it. Of course, I didn’t get offended about any of this. It wasn’t until recently, at the age of 23, that I started to accept and love the colour of my skin. You are probably thinking, “that’s so sad to hear, I didn’t know.” But I believe, a lot of young people of colour feel this way. I cannot speak for others so I will say, at least I felt this way.

Recently, there has been so much empowerment around females of colour.

When I read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, my favourite poem was how she used poetry to describe being brown.

This poem is called:

The Healing

my issue with what they consider beautiful
is their concept of beauty
centers around excluding people
i find hair beautiful
when a woman wears it
like a garden
on her skin
that is the definition of beauty
big hooked noses
pointing upward to the sky like they’re rising
to the occasion
skin the color of earth
my ancestors planted crops on
to feed a lineage of women with
thighs thick as tree trunks
eyes like almonds
deeply hooded
with conviction
the rivers of punjab
flow through my bloodstream so
don’t tell me my women
aren’t as beautiful
as the ones in

your country

I love, “skin the color of earth.”

I was so moved by her poem, that I felt happy and proud to wear the colour of my skin. In elementary school, I didn’t understand and in high school, I felt alone and ashamed. Gurl, let me tell you, you are not alone. Embrace your culture, who you are, and the colour of your skin. You show strength as strong as the colour of the earth. You are beautiful, you are enough, you are perfect.

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