Independence Day. You probably think of Will Smith when I first say that (think of Will Smith too) but then I think about the freedom achieved by the American people from the British. As an Indian (from the sub-continent of Asia, not Native American), my family also celebrates the Independence Day of India. This had me thinking about the many many colonies started by European nations, including more than just India and North America, but the rest of Asia, and Africa and South America. India gained independence from the British in 1947, and there are still people alive today to tell the story of it.
The imperialistic attitude of Europeans messed up the foundation, culture, and economy of India. I remember visiting Red Fort at 15 years old, and the digital tour guide in my ear spoke about how the ceiling of one of the rooms was covered with gold and jewels, and the next sentence was how the gold and jewels were stolen by European colonizers. They used a different word than stolen, but let's call it like it is. Though the British were able to create a democracy in India, they left the country corrupt and money hungry when it used to be about more, it used to be better. But their course of History was attacked, rooted and forever changed.
That is the story of imperialism that most people hear about and think they super wake, which, you know what? I am super proud of you for knowing that; however, imperialism messed up the way people of color perceive themselves and the toxic attitude is still relevant today.
In India, if you have darker skin you are considered less beautiful, which baffles my mind because we are 500 shades of brown in the second most populated country in the world. There is a beauty product known as 'Fair and Lovely' which has small concentrations of bleach in it in order to lighten skin. My mom used to use that on my sister because she has always been darker. Around 10 years old, I started to hate my hair. I began to straighten it so that it would look like all of the girls' hairs that I was surrounded by. I began to get compliments and it made me feel less ugly. At 15, due to constantly comparing myself to my friends, I didn't even know what color my skin was, so when it came down to buying makeup, I'd accidentally buy one shade darker in a foundation, concealer, and powder. And there would be nothing wrong with me being a shade darker or even ten shades darker, had it not been for the fact that I couldn't even recognize my own skin because I was constantly comparing myself to white.
I hear about similar instances from other Indian kids, but what surprised me more than that was hearing about it from other people of color. In high school I would ask myself over and over again, why do we feel so inferior because of our features? And then I was reminded about how we all have imperialism in common. The countries from which our ancestors came were colonized and brainwashed into making sure that the indigenous people know that they are inferior in every way, to the white man. And along with our skin, eyes, hair, we were passed down that complex through our veins. That complex is rooted in our history.
I was lucky enough to be able to talk to my parents and my peers about it and dig my way out of those malignant thoughts and into an ideology of clarity; however, there are many people who are stuck on that inferiority complex. They change their behaviors and beliefs, because if they can't look white, then they can at least erase their culture and act white because that's better. When they begin looking for love, they prefer to only look at people who are of a "superior race," because that's what they wish they could be. When I was 15, I was literally told by a guy (who also was not white) I had kissed weeks prior, that he wasn't into dark-skinned girls. But like I said, I've reached my clarity, I've reached my strength. I know that my skin and my hair and my features do not hinder me from being beautiful, other people's lack of growth from the chains that European empires shackled on to other nations are what bind them to their thoughts.
Imperialism fucked with how beautiful I am to myself and to other people, but it's a mindset that we can stop if we talk about it. The entertainment industry is revolutionizing representation, finally. With movies like "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Black Panther", we are making strides towards making sure young men and women see themselves represented on screen. And they look beautiful.