Chapter 10: Dark Is Beautiful

Promoting God’s People Values in a Skin-Deep World

Kavitha Emmanuel

“Several years ago, I ran into a friend of mine as I was dropping my five-year-old daughter at school. A mother of two girls near my daughter’s age, I knew her well. After we dropped our girls off, we decided to go for coffee and a chat.

We began talking about our children. As the conversation continued, she began to share about a developing situation with her two daughters. Her older daughter was getting a lot of positive attention. She was liked in school. Adults would hold her cheeks (an Indian way of showing affection). She was constantly being told how beautiful she was by passers-by.

The younger daughter, on the other hand, received no such attention. Her mother recounted a recent incident when they had visited a toy shop. Upon entering, the proprietor welcomed her older daughter with a balloon and candy, while ignoring the younger girl.

This mother ached in her heart for her younger girl. She did everything she could to affirm to her of her value and worth. But this little girl was only too aware of how she was viewed and treated. Just that week, the little girl had returned home from school and tearfully asked her mother, “Mom, I am so dark. That is why I am not beautiful, why I am not chosen for school photographs, why adults ignore me.

“Why am I so dark? And why is Sis so light?”


INDIA IS A LAND OF a billion shades of skin—from chocolate hues, sun-kissed versions of beige, and golden-honey tints of brown to different shades of cream. But within this myriad of skin-tone variety, one value holds true: fair skin is beautiful, while dark skin is not. If you are born fair, you are fortunate…if you are born dark, you are not.

Skin-color bias thrives in India. It is virtually built into our cultural DNA. Without any sort of conscious realization, skin-color bias wreaks havoc on the sense of value and worth of millions of girls and boys, women and men.

Conversation about skin color is no secret in most Indian families. Common phrases we hear while growing up include:

  • “Don’t go out in the sun, you will get dark.”
  • “Use turmeric, save your color.”
  • “Use saffron in your milk to ensure your baby is born with fair skin.”
  • “Don’t go swimming. It makes you tan.”

When a child is born, there are two things people are interested in. First, …

About the Author

KavithaKAVITHA EMMANUEL is founder of Women of Worth. She is also co-pastor of Powerhouse Church.

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