When I was growing up, I was told to stay out of the sun. Not because of the now well-known ill-effects of UV radiation; that would have been a good reason, and one of the reasons I continue this habit or at least wear sunscreen.
The reason I was given, in fact, was that dark-skin was bad. Dark skin was associated with indigenousness – or what we at the time erroneously called “Indios”, and today might refer to as native americans. In the culture in which a significant proportion of family was raised, indigenousness – and its more obvious representations – was correlated with a lack of education, social stature, prospects, and class. To put it bluntly, brown skin was bad, white skin was good. The browner you were, well… you can probably guess where that train is headed.
To make matters somewhat emotionally complex, I have many relatives that are the products of mixed-marriages, or mestizos, between European descendants and indigenous people. I have uncles, aunts, and cousins, that I care for deeply, that quite happily will call themselves “brown”. Yes, this racism, was intra-familial. And without a doubt, like so many other beliefs planted in the depths of my psyche, I too – for a time – held these things to be true.
I no longer think the way I was taught to think. And to be quite honest, there has always been a part of me that wishes I could just “go dark”. Yet, I find it very difficult to identify with this possibility. I suppose that’s only natural. I was born on the “right side” of the fence, never knowing what it was like to be negatively prejudged by the colour of my skin.
So, in response to Lucie Bluebird’s Project Everybody Challenge: Be Brave, and in solidarity, and as much empathy that I can muster for my beloved browner folk, today in Second Life, I’m going brown like you.