Dear Little Brown Girl,
I wish I could shield your innocence, but if you’re anything like me, the color of your skin will awaken you to the prejudice that still lives in this world earlier than you’d like. It won’t be like the movies, where a resolution will neatly fix everything right before the credits roll. It’ll be sloppy, and you’ll feel conflicted because the grown-ups told you these things don’t happy anymore.
There are many that believe you will have nothing to worry about because you have so many more positive and diverse women to represent you in the media and workforce today. Growing up, that is what they said about me. And still, the small steps of progress have not been enough to make others realize we are human.
I'd like to start by saying that you matter. Your life has purpose and you deserve to be as happy as anyone else. As often as others will make your voice seem unnecessary, exaggerated, or unwanted, know that your experiences are valid. The disrespect your body faces isn't all just in your head. The exhaustion within your soul is real. You should act with the purpose your life and body hold: Educate your mind because it can and deserves to be educated; respect your body because it can and deserves to be respected. I tell you these things because I know the world you live in makes you doubt that they are true.
Little brown girl, your darker complexion is scoffed at and demeaned by the colorism that exists within your culture. It makes you envy the girls with lighter skin, reach for bottles of bleach, and hide from the sun. Their side glances make you reconsider every outfit you wear, every picture you pose for, every moment of confidence that breaks through. Your skin color is discussed with discretion, skirted around as if it is synonymous with labeling you unattractive or a failure in some way. You will be called degrading names that compare you to a wild animal or something filthy. Little brown girl, no matter your race, you will know the harm that racist remarks carry.
Little brown girl these actions on the account of others have contributed to your lack of self-worth. So now in the workplace, when dating, when living your life, you are disrespected so often that you believe you deserve it. Even now as I write this, I think of the number of times my own efforts for this very publication have been discredited. I have repeatedly been passed over for higher responsibility by women with less experience than myself and a lighter skin tone. I would continue to defend those that discredited my work and instead punish myself for not doing enough. Little brown girl always do the most and acknowledge your own hard work. When it is not noticed, make it known, make it seen. Stay humble, but know your worth and never settle for less.
Little brown girl after dodging hits your entire life, there are still some that consider your skin too light to actually be oppressed. Today's generation looks at suffering as a competition. You will realize that you will have to defend the discrimination you have faced on both ends of a spectrum you never asked to stand on.
They will tell you that you can choose to be happy. As if your sadness is superficial or can so easily be replaced. I advise you to let your tears fall, for they are authentic and too heavy to let accumulate inside you. Let them fall, but do not store them in a jar beneath your bed, for your head will swim in sorrowful thoughts. Be sad and let them see your tears. They wish you to hide your pain because it makes them uncomfortable. You do not have to carry a discomfort within yourself in order to shield them from the chaos they have caused within you. But once your tears have fallen, stand up and learn to be happy. Your happiness is the greatest form of revenge there is, for it is what they have worked their entire existence to demolish within you.
Little brown girl as hard as it may seem, learn to love yourself. Because until you learn to genuinely believe the color of your skin to be as precious as the ivory shade that haunts your waking hours, they will continue to see your body as costume, joke, and trend. Little brown girl, you are here to stay. Their fake tans and bronzers attempt to imitate your hue but can never compare to the radiance of your complexion. Unlike theirs, yours tells a story. For me it says "Made in America", "Mother of the Earth", "Truth Detector", "Labor", "Pain", and "Resilience". Your skin is a wallflower that absorbs all the thoughts and concepts of appearance and conceited behavior within. Your color is a super power; learn to use it.
Little brown girl, you are not supposed to succeed. The society you were born into was built with every direct intention of ensuring your failure. Prove them wrong and flaunt your success like a victorious flag. Remember the people that stand by your side, for they believed in you enough to know it would come true. Remember the people that called your skin beautiful, that pushed your doubts aside, that fertilized the confidence that slowly built within you through the years. They are the visionaries that can see through the veil of hatred your society is raised on. Most are not born with this ability, it does not run in your family. They will find you in the most unexpected places. Surround yourself with them and reproduce others through education and love.
Little brown girl realize that you cannot reach them all. It is not your job to save the world, and you shouldn’t try to do so. You will find that even those closest to you can not always see what has been in front of them all along. Do not be discouraged, and do not confront them with hatred. Wish them love, and leave them if you must. You are not obligated to keep people in your life that do not respect you, no matter what sense of fate once connected you to them.
Here’s the part that makes me cringe, but it must be said. Little brown girl, you will be fetishized. To men of lighter complexion, or perhaps even to men who match your skin tone, your appearance will envelope a stereotype that conveniently compliments their personal agenda. Your skin color will dictate how they perceive you to be, regardless of whether your actions speak otherwise. Be wary for even if romantic intentions are not observed, your body is still up for use.
Do not let yourself become a token for the political or objective gain of another. Just as my words do not speak for every brown-skinned girl, your thoughts and actions should not be proclaimed the only representation for dark-skinned women. Speak your well reflected opinions proudly and ensure it is known they are your own. You are no one's caricature or canvas to repurpose. Be a mascot for yourself.
Finally, I leave you with these last words: keep fighting. With time, you will grow tired and jaded. You will wonder if you are worth the constant effort that is used to counter the resistance that is glared your way. Little brown girl you are always worth it, but when the day comes that you don’t feel like enough reason… look up. Look ahead and behind you. The fight you face to defend your skin is not only for your own being, it stands to protect the name of the brown-skinned women before you and the innocent dark girls that have yet to come. Your fight always has purpose, so lead on.
A little brown girl