“Let’s get inside before it gets busier!” I said to my friend as we jumped out of her parents shiny, new SUV. It was the week of the Mosaic and we were just about to head into the India: Punjabi pavilion. I was 23 years old, 5 months pregnant and ready to eat for two. As we were walking towards the entrance, my friend made comments I will never forget to this day. “I can’t believe you’re having a baby”, she said. I nodded and smiled in agreement. Then she continued with, “I hope your baby has a nose and hair like yours.” I was completely taken off guard. “What do you mean?” I quickly responded. “You know, straight hair and a nose that looks small like yours.”
It would take nearly a year later until I actually confronted my friend about that conversation we had a year prior. I held in the pain I felt from those words. Both my friend and myself are white women of European descent, while my daughter who is now nearly seven years old is a mix of my ancestry and of West African ancestry. It wasn’t until the day of that conversation that I realised how much skin colour makes a difference, but also physical features make a difference in how people are viewed and treated. Straight hair and a pointed nose are what society deems as the most beautiful. I see it in every form of media.
Since having the realisation of how a body is being racialized, I have been very intentional about surrounding myself with more diverse representation. Not only for myself, but for my daughter. What I mean by this is, reading books about people from different parts of the world, different cultures, different faiths than our own. Listening to music or watching movies with diverse characters. Despite this, however, I almost daily will hear comments from my daughter who has the cutest curls, brown skin and brown eyes, that she wishes she was white like me and had straight hair like me. I have very fair skin with pink overtones and straight, dark brown hair and green eyes. I have no idea what it is like to be her, and I never will.
Even though it has been over 7 years, I have become more aware of the comments that are being made about the physical features of those who are not white and who do not look like me. Beauty is subjective and should be celebrated for its diversity. There will always be strength when there is unity in diversity.
Attached is a picture of my daughter and myself taken in the summer of 2018.