For the Culture TV reached out to Missouri native, Trina Hien Quach about her experience navigating colorism within her community. Read Trina's personal essay below.
Both of my parents are Vietnamese. However, my dad’s skin is a copper color and my mom’s skin is like ivory. I inherited three features from my dad which would be the wavy hair, forehead, and the beautiful copper skin. Other than that, I look just like my mom. However, my skin color is distracts people from that. I know that because every time my mom and I would run into her friends, they would scream “She is so dark! No way can she be your kid!” or they would asked if I was adopted.
In the Asian culture, girls are pressured to look and act a certain way or else they are undesirable and no man wants them. I remember when I was 14 years old, one of my mom’s friend suggested to bleach my skin because “no man wants a wife with dark skin”. I never took her advice in consideration. If I bleached my skin, I would be erasing one of the few features that my dad passed down to me. However, her words hurt my feelings a lot. Despite this confident, cheerful persona of mine, I have always been insecure and quite vulnerable. Everyone always tell me to ignore what people say, but I can’t help it. I have social anxiety and her words just made the fire spread even more. What sucks even more is that she was just only one of the many (Asian) people who made a negative comment about my skin color. I just felt unwanted by my own race.
When I got to college, I made so many friends who come from different backgrounds. Majority of the friends I made in college are black and hispanic, and we love talking about social justice. However, one day the topic about colorism got brought up. My friends were talking about how people with darker skin within their race get looked down upon within their own race. I was so shocked because I never knew skin color affected social dominance within other races/ethnicity. Before college, none of my friends back home has ever experienced with colorism. Therefore, no one understood my pain so I always kept my mouth shut. It was a relieving feeling because I finally met some people who I could relate to in regards to this topic, but it makes me angry because I feel like NOBODY should ever go through this. Why is a person with darker skin less desirable than a lighter skinned person? Why is there a hierarchy within our own in-group? You're telling me I have to have the same skin color as a white person to be worthy? *Rolls eyes*.
We need to put away the stigma against darker skin. It's already bad enough that we, as minorities, get put down by the majority. Why must we put down the people in our own race? We are supposed to uplift one another. At age 14, I was depressed because I was told I would never get married because I am dar. At 19, I am embracing my natural skin color. I am not going to change what I was blessed with. However, I learned a lot within the past five years. Something I would tell my 14 year old self is that there are girls in your class that walk around with orange skin to be as dark as you.
And lastly, who needs a man in the first place?
-By Trina Hien Quach