You’re so dark. No one’s going to love you.
<Insert Filipino relative’s name here>: “Sobrang maitim ka. Walang magmamahal sayo.”
Translation: You’re so black/dark. No one’s going to love you.
These were words I heard too often being thrown around by the older generation. Who dredged up these shameful memories? My wife (no she wouldn’t say those horrible things, she just calls me ugly). For the past few days my wife has been sharing videos questioning a Filipino culture trait that has plagued us since colonial times: the incessant need of Filipinos to whiten their skin. It is a trait that I abhor. This urge to whiten our skin is so strong that companies such as Unilever and L'Oréal profit a great deal from it.
After seeing one of my wife’s relatives ask the innocent question of whether or not westerners thought this idea was weird, I lost it.
Here’s the screenshot of said rant:
I wasn’t yelling at the person who asked the question. This person didn’t know. This is what drove me up the wall. This need to whiten one’s skin color is so ingrained in Filipino culture, many Filipinos don’t know it.
So what right does this dirty westerner have to judge Filipino culture? My parents were born and raised in the Philippines. In many respects I was raised in a traditional Filipino household. Thankfully the title line was something I have never heard my parents say (my dad especially loves to tan).
Being raised by parents of Filipino decent is only one aspect of my upbringing. I grew up in New York, specifically in Queens (Yes, yes I know. I’m a dirty Queens boy). Growing up in New York has given me a core value that runs counter to a part of Filipino culture. The unimportance of skin color or least the idea of it (a topic for another day, we would be here all night if I went there).
Now to the folks who aren’t familiar with Filipinos (Lucky you, just kidding. Seriously, you haven’t come across at least one Filipino? Look around. It's easier to find one than trying to find Waldo. We’re everywhere). The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country made up of many islands. For a country that is in many ways homogenous, our skin tones can vary greatly. One person can be porcelain white while their own sibling can be as dark as the fertile soils of Mother Earth. This variance lends to the beauty of Filipinos.
So why are Filipinos chasing this dream of being “porcelain white?” It’s a curse bestowed upon us by our Spanish forefathers. They came to the islands and needed a way to rule us. Divide and Conquer, as the military maxim goes. What better way to rule a group of people than by dividing them. Elevate one group to a position of privilege over the other. This is where our blessing of skin color became our weakness. The Spanish taught our other ancestors that to be of dark skin was to be one step closer to being an animal. To be dark meant you were ugly, practically subhuman. That being light skinned meant you were one step closer to being human, one step closer to being them.
While many folks over in the Philippines are trying to whiten their skin, there are folks over here in America who are trying to darken theirs. Don’t believe me? Pull up Google Maps and center it on New York City. Now do a map search of “Tanning Salons.” There are dozens! And that’s just a search of one city here in America! So what does that tell you of the idea that only light skin is beautiful. None of that matters (If you’re ugly, you’re ugly - just kidding). Being a good person on the inside is what counts (cliched saying, but true nonetheless). Not this superficial facade that is our body.
Judging a person’s beauty based on their skin color is ridiculous. It’s like me saying that I’m more handsome than Denzel Washington because my skin is lighter than his. It’s absurd! (I am, however, more handsome then him, just for different reasons...I wish T_T ).
We as Filipinos need to question the mass media. Does that actor/actress really represent who I am? Why does the poor person/servant have to be dark? Why not flip the script? Why is the darker person being depicted as ugly? Is this really the world that I come from? Look at the people around you when you do this. Does this "ideal" the media presents to you real? Think about it.
I’m going to leave it at this for now before this turns into a full blown steemit version of my facebook rant. The next time you walk into that store and you consider that whitening soap. Think about this post. You’re beautiful. You don’t need that whitening soap. Walk away...and buy the regular soap (just because you’re beautiful doesn’t exempt you from regular bathing, seriously you should bathe. Light skin or not, being smelly isn't beautiful).
© 2017 Christian Cruz