Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Light skin, dark skin

In Ghana, I met a ton of amazing people.

I met several teenagers at The Village of Life. Beautiful, lively young women full of potential and full of God's light. Amazing voices and rhythm that I dream about having.

I instantly fell in love with them. And JD, Tia and I bonded very well with them. It was great to spend time with them and an honor to leave The Village of Life as "Mommy Debora".

But one thing that crushed my heart?... Their desire to look white. The lack of confidence in their own beauty. The struggle of having ideas of what it means to be white while slighting their own accomplishments while doing it. "I wish I had white skin", "I want my voice to sound like yours", "I want silky hair" "I just have black eyes, not green or blue eyes", "I want soft skin like you"... the list goes on and on. And my heart broke more and more. I found myself repeating the same thing over and over to them "you don't have to be like me or like JD or like anyone else! You are beautiful and amazing as you are." And they are. But they still value my light (mosquito attacked) skin, and silky hair more than their own skin and hair. And I hated it. I prayed that they would find beauty in themselves and other wonderful things in themselves and that they would not want to be like me because of the fact that they view my features as superior. I certainly don't mind them emulating traits that I have (only if they are good please) but to want to literally look like us because we are white?

Some of the beautiful young ladies singing at the sod cutting ceremony

Dear God, place in the heart of Ghana the ability to nurture and respect their women. Allow both men and women to see their beauty and own unique gifts. Allow my beautiful, sweet girls to develop into strong, confident women who value themselves and look into the hearts of others and themselves to evaluate internal goodness over external "beauty".


I had only just arrived in Ghana... Walking through the airport and soaking in all the people. "Akwaaba", "you are welcome" are echoing through the halls. I get a bit behind the others and 3 men approach me. One of them speaks to me but I don't understand him. So I ask what he said and another man answers "He says he is your biggest fan". I smile very confused by the statement and keep walking. Then the first man answers "what I mean is, would you marry me". I had been warned about such approaches. I laughed and said "I am so sorry but I already have a husband and one is plenty for me." Their laughter roars and the original man says "yes, one man is plenty."

White women are wealthy, white women are easy.


I am talking to a guy who works at The Credit Union, where we stayed in Kete Krachi, and we begin discussing marriage. He tells me how it is very rare for a man to marry a woman who is older than him. That was a head-scratcher to me. He told me that it was the belief of many men that women age much faster than men and that they don't want an old worn out looking wife (my own stereotypes filled my head during this conversation: well if women didn't do all the work maybe they wouldn't age so fast). He asked if I was married and I told him about my family. Then I told him to guess my age knowing hed guess me younger than I am. He guesses 18. I laugh and tell him I am 26 and he is baffled by the fact that I am older than him. I then tell him that not all women age fast like he thinks and that he needs to keep his heart open for the woman God has for him.

He goes on to tell me that he wants to marry a white woman. (my heart sinks again). His reasons were that white women care about their children more and teach their children and won't leave their children. By this point I am a little angry because of all the misconceptions about both white people and his own wonderful women in Ghana. I tell him that there are bad people of all races and cultures and that white women leave their children and some work too  much and we just talked through all the thoughts. He seemed to understand my points pretty well but I really just wanted him to see the beauty in his own people and his own culture. And I am not sure we got that far.
A beautiful mom looking lovingly at her child


At the Niagara Inn a man kissed me on the cheek. Put his arm around me and kissed me. I stepped back and firmly said "No thank you" and he attempted to do it again. This time I pushed him away and said "NO!" a bit more firmly and his boss also scolded him.

White women are easy.


These are just a few examples from my trip. And I just want to say: my young women at The Village of Life, you are beautiful and talented and wonderful and amazing. You inspire me every day and I miss you all every single moment of every single day.

Women of Ghana, you are extremely hard workers with beautiful smiles. The men should be ashamed of themselves for not holding you dear and treating you with enough respect.

White women are not all rich nor are all white people. I can't take you to the US because I don't have the money to help you :P

And white women are definitely not easy because their skin is white just like black women don't leave their children because their skin is black.

And for the record... not all Ghanaian men think this way of women and most (the ones I met) of the Ghanaian's on the ground fighting poverty and human rights violations are men.


I guess the point of this was to just document the feelings I had discovering how people view one another. How media and preconceptions seem to dictate how we think about people as a whole. And I want to encourage everyone to show all children they are around that they are special for who they are. That they are talented and beautiful and they don't need to be like anyone else at all.

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