Background: Guyanese (with black, Portuguese, Indian, and First Nations descent)
I know that [my light skin] benefits me, which is a really sad fact. At places where I’ve worked, I doubt I would have gotten my job if I didn’t look so ambiguous, because people can’t tell where I’m from all the time. For years, people have loved to tell me how white I am—just taking that away from me and deciding who I am. When people ask me questions about my identity, all it does is reinforce all of the really outdated and self-absorbed assumptions about my own cultural identity. And I’m speaking from a city that has a lot of cultural knowledge, too. I can only imagine it’s probably infinitely worse if we moved out of Toronto.
Background: Indonesian and Kuwaiti
When it comes to Indonesia, there’s a lot of whitening bleaching products. Indonesian girls who are paler are seen as more pure and clean. There’s this perception about tanned Indonesians—they’re seen as run-of-the-mill girls. They’re seen as [slutty]. People who are pure Kuwaiti are darker skinned, but again, if you are paler, they assume you are mixed with something “beautiful.” I’m not the darkest Asian, but I’m not the lightest. In the summer, I tan really easily, and in the winter, I’m pale. So I’m just in a constant back and forth. Coming from these two backgrounds, it’s complicated, and it can be really frustrating.
Extracts from a VICE article by Ebony-Renee Baker (original). Published 9 May 2016.