Privilege has no color. But when you have privilege, no matter what you are—white, brown, black, or yellow—you are blind to it.
I know—I was.
When I lived in my own country, I had it all—the right twang of English, the right profession, the right social class, and the right color of skin. I wasn’t the fairest of all, but was fairer than most. So, I never understood why some of my friends, even an inch darker felt invisible.
“It’s all in your head,” I’d tell them. “It’s not others, it’s you. You’ve convinced yourself that you’re un-pretty.”
Then I crossed oceans, hopped continents, and found myself in a land where melanin had several more shades. And I ranked pretty damn low on the spectrum. I wasn’t the darkest of all, but was darker than most. The only difference was, I didn’t know it yet. I had grown up thinking that I was fair, so that’s how I thought the world saw me as well.
Until one day, when I decided to wear lipstick to work. I never put on makeup usually. But, this day I felt like dressing up. I pulled out a new shade of red I had recently purchased and spread it across my smile. When I entered office, everyone took notice. Either it was the right color or it was cause I looked different. But, when heads turned and I got compliments, I knew I was looking good.
It was 10 past 9. The day was off to a good start, when my boss walked in. She was a wonderful woman whom I admired. She gave me my assignment for the day and another look.
“You look beautiful,” she said. “That lipstick looks perfect on your skin color.”
The high that I had been riding all morning came crashing to a resounding low. All day long, her words kept ringing in my ear—what did she really mean? What is the color of my skin?
I looked around at the faces of my colleagues and then mine reflected in the window pane—a tiny island swept by an ocean of white. That day, was the day, I discovered my color.