My Skin Color Does Not Define Me

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.


“Oh, wow! You look like your skin's gotten lighter!” were the first words out of all my relatives’ mouths when I visited Bangladesh. Everyone expected me to say “thank you” as if it were a compliment. I’ve always known that within the South Asian community there is a negative connotation attached to being dark skinned, but as I grew older, I realized how much it affected me and my self-confidence.

In my native tongue, "Bangla" is the word for both fair-skinned and beautiful. Other than my parents, almost everyone in my extended family has made me feel like I’m inferior because of my darker skin. Since I was little, I was told by relatives not to play in the sun because it would make me darker. I was told not to wear certain colors because they made me look darker, and that it would be hard for me to get married. I was told to use “Fair and Lovely” (a skin bleaching cream) and given “tips” on how to lighten my skin.To this day, my uncle greets me with “Hey Kali” which translates to “Hey dark-skinned girl.” Whenever I complain about this, I am told “You are dark skinned. What do you expect?”

I am perfectly fine with being dark-skinned, but not with being treated like I’m not good enough because of my skin color. My uncle has told...

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