Beautiful As You Are:
When I was growing up, I had many bullies in school in Virginia. I was sometimes called the “ugly brown girl with a bush on her head.” And I’d come home bawling my eyes out. Racist bullies do a lot of damage, I’m sure you all know that by now. When I came back to Pakistan, I taught kindergarten and high school students. I found out that skin color is still a huge issue in our culture. Girls are made to feel horrible about their complexion if it’s dark. So I decided to write a little poem for the little girls in elementary school with some doodles. I read it to them in the playground. I’m glad things started to change after that.
Here it is.
When I was four feet and five inches,
Kids at school would say,
“Hey Mehreen, buy yourself a paper bag!
Your face ruins our day!”
I asked them why they thought so,
My mom said I was pretty swell?
“That’s cause your hair is bushy!
Plus your skin’s dark as hell!”
So I wore the paper bag to school,
I wore it day and night.
I thought I’d be accepted
If I was out of sight.
Then I grew up and left home,
For college and other big plans,
I made friends around the world,
I even made some fans!
I learned that people are beautiful
If they love, respect and care.
What matters most is inside.
Not my skin or hair.
So if a girl is tall and pink,
But she’s rotten and she’s rude,
She’s not pretty in any way.
I’d rather have her boo’ed.
And if a girl is small and dark
And her heart is made of gold,
Trust me, she’ll be plain beautiful
Even when she’s old.
Now here’s a little secret.
Brown is a beautiful shade.
Of warmth, strength and sweetness
This strong color is made.
But that doesn’t matter,
Oh it doesn’t matter at all.
If someone treats you for your skin tone,
They’re not worth the fall.
You’re beautiful and you’re lovely,
Because you are you.
Aw, man, this rhymes too nicely.
Because it’s really true.
Your skin is just a cover,
Your skin is just some meat,
It doesn’t make you bitter
And it doesn’t make you sweet.
What makes you gorgeous and lovely,
Comes right out of here.
So now you know you’re perfect.
Oh, you’re beautiful, my dear.
Thought I’d share it here after it got published in South Africa for girls and WOC. To everyone who’s ever felt bad about themselves: Stop. You’re beautiful.
Shadeism sucks. To all the brown and black women in the world.