[OP-ED] “Beautiful” Skin
By Mod Myshayla
Like many people of color, growing up I had an insecurity about my skin. I thought it was a weird shade. Being mixed, I wasn’t quite white but I wasn’t dark enough for others to clearly see I was black (and no, not Mexican or Native American or whatever else people decided I must be). I can’t remember a single time, a single time, where someone called my skin tone beautiful just to tell me, just because they believed it.
There weren’t representations of people with my skin tone on TV or in books, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing my skin tone was considered attractive or even deserved respect like fairer skin toned people received. I was surrounded by white characters and there wasn’t anything I could do. I didn’t think it was wrong having only white dolls because that’s all my mom found or liking shows with only white characters because that’s all there was.
You grow up and this stuff becomes normalized. You don’t expect people to call you beautiful because it never happened in fiction, so why would it happen in real life? Because of this, the “Kai’s Skin-tone is Beautiful” movement definitely has interest me.
But there’s a lot of things about this movement that need to be discussed…
First of all, the statement itself. “Your skin is beautiful.” can turn creepy, real fast. Imagine having dozens of people come up to you, one at a time, and saying that. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made someone uncomfortable. In general, I hate when people try to comfort others by calling them beautiful. What is beauty? Usually, you consider what is pleasing to the eye as beautiful. So by saying Kai’s skin is beautiful, wouldn’t that statement be focusing on yourself and not him? ‘Well, I find you attractive and your skin tone attractive so you are.’
Why should he care that you, personally, find his skin tone attractive? At the end of the day, we don’t need to convince him that he’s attractive, we need to go deeper. We need to tell him we acknowledge his struggles, we need to tell him we aren’t okay with the colorist jokes and that we support him, and most of all, we need to tell him his skin tone is not a weakness.
I do understand the sentiment, of telling a person of color their skin is beautiful though, because a lot of us were never told that and a lot of us went through self-hate because of it but I just feel the statement isn’t strong enough to show what we mean. And I think idols already get enough comments about their looks to begin with.
I prefer “your skin tone is not a weakness” because weakness fulfills more than “beautiful”. Since weakness implies a bad thing, something that holds him back, something to be ashamed of, to tell him his skin tone is not a weakness would be to uplift the colorist things people have said to him. Because face it, even the colorist folks know Kai is beautiful. They aren’t saying he’s not. That’s why he’s been given the sexy role in EXO. Interviewers have told him, colleagues have told him, that he is very handsome. I don’t think he needs reassurance over his looks. I think he needs support by people saying they won’t tolerate the treatment he gets because of his looks
Another reason, I want to scurry away from the “beautiful” statement is because the statement immediately becomes different depending on who says it.
“Your skin tone is beautiful” coming from a darker black person can be mistaken for “your skin tone is beautiful (because it’s lighter than mine).”
“Your skin tone is beautiful” coming from a lighter person can be mistaken for some weird exotic fetish shit, like he’s a new species of bird. It could also been seen as validation of sorts. He doesn’t need validation from fairer skinned people, that he’s beautiful, because they already control beauty standards, I think by fairer skin toned people saying this statement- they’d just reinforce that what they think is beautiful is more important than what people with darker skin tones think is beautiful.
“Your skin tone is not a weakness” however, can be said by anyone and be taken the same way, the right way, and it’ll emphasize that beauty is not what matters in a person. It’ll clearly say, we are here for you and we would be here for you, even if you weren’t “beautiful”, and we are here for anyone with your skin tone.
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