November 27, 2013

Surviving Discrimination - The AJ Franklin Story

“Though She Is Dark, She Is a Nice Girl”
By AJ Franklin | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

Growing up, I was teased by classmates for being a crow, urged by relatives to apply fairness creams and finally, when it came to marriage, I was told in advance that people would expect lots of dowry from my family because I'm dark. 

According to most of my relatives, we had to enlist me in a matrimonial services provider, so we went to a suitable one and I filled in a host of forms. On each form, after the basics, there was a slot for skin colour. I went ahead and ticked the box that said “dark complexioned.” 

The person in charge read the form and made a funny face at me, as though I had made a stupid mistake. She pointed at the skin colour box and said, “Please change that to ‘wheat complexioned.’” 

I asked why, and she rolled her eyes at me and said in Tamil that it was standard procedure for any girl of my “karuppu” skin to tick “wheat complexioned” to boost my chances of “catching” a groom.

Holding back both anger and laughter, I asked the million-dollar question, “What will they say when they see me in person?” She replied, “Just get a facial bleach done before they come to see you, or tell them you tanned over the summer.”

I smiled politely, told her I’d rather not lie, and re-ticked “dark.” She shook her head ever so disapprovingly. And that was just a regular Tuesday for the unmarried dark girl.

I laughed my head off and told my parents and so called well-wishers that I'd rather be single than marry someone who looks at my skin, and not my character
, for a lifetime of being husband and wife. I was quickly labeled "stubborn" and “picky" and preparations were well on their way, under my nose. I told my parents that the most I could do was to humour them by actually agreeing to meet these prospective grooms and their parents.

So the grooms arrived with their parents in tow, looked me up and down and asked ever so candidly about dowry and skin colour, stating how unfortunate it was for my parents to have not one, but two, dark girls. Most were willing to “accept” me for a fat dowry. I said a polite “no” and turned all of them away.

Then I met the man who would shock our society by marrying me whilst being much fairer than I; that too without a single rupee of dowry, much to his parents’ dismay. Post wedding, I had it tough from Day 1. All his relatives were confused as to why my husband had married me. They asked him questions like these, mostly while I was also present:

“Did you do something wrong with her before marriage?”
“Didn’t you find a fairer girl?”
“Is she pressuring you to marry her?”
“Couldn’t you have waited for God to send you a better girl?”
 “Aren’t you worried that your children will be born dark?”

His parents acted like they had to say something in my defense, but usually ended up saying, “Though she is dark, she is a nice girl.” 

I thought that the dark skin abuse would stop when I conceived. Oh, was I mistaken! Free advice was given by all on what to eat/not to eat to give birth to a fair child. 

Each time I picked up black grapes, tea, jamun or strong coffee, my in-laws made me put it down saying that black-coloured foods will darken my growing fetus! 

I was forced to add saffron to my milk to whiten my baby. My poor husband was torn between me and his dear parents. We had such bad fights. I cried, refused to eat, and shunned visits because I was so depressed.

My in-laws prayed that if it were a girl, she should take after her father and be of “nalla colour” and if it was a boy, it would not matter, but it would be nice if he, too would be fair.

Soon as my daughter arrived, I was shown such love, because “SHE WAS BORN WHITE.” It was all celebrations for my in-laws because their granddaughter was like her father— fair, and not like her dark mother.

Sadly, my in-laws are still are going on and on about my skin colour. I took a stand and stopped talking to them after a long fight on the subject. They crossed a line when they said that I somehow darkened my daughter’s skin after I took her home. 

I am sure that these people sound inhuman to you, but they are meek, middle-class, religious, simple southern folk.

All around our society is this vile bias against dark skin. Till now, this has been a bias that no one speaks about very openly. It has been brushed aside or laughed at, and for the dark person, taken in stride as a “flaw” one has to live with.

Why can’t most people just accept my dark skin? I personally feel that it is because this idea of “fair and lovely” had been drilled into children’s heads from birth by parents, teachers and the ads that very cleverly brainwash them from the day they begin to watch TV.

It’s time stop teaching our children that that the princess in the story is “as fair as can be.”
It’s time to say that fair isn’t the only kind of lovely.
It’s time to embrace the dark child.
It’s time to view people as human beings, and not a shade of colour.
Dark is not bad, dark is not unlucky, dark is not ugly.
Stand up and say it: “Dark is beautiful.”


  1. Wonderful post :) I really believe Dark is beautiful though I am fair :) I wish I were dark. ;)

    1. Aarthi, there is nothing wrong with being dark or fair. You have no control over the color of your skin. What you can control is what kind of a person you are. Are you kind? Are you decent? Do you work/study hard? Do you want what's best for all people everywhere? These are the things that matter.

  2. So honestly and well put forth. I still believe and we should all do so, that what God who has made us, is by HIS will and no one can change that. Let us accept it by saying "His will be done not mine"

  3. AJ Franklin- you and your daughter have gorgeous smiles- God bless! btw - I am are things with your husband now?

  4. AJ Franklin, you are beautiful and my heart breaks to hear how skin color is such a stigma still; espcially in our south asian society. I also wish that your in laws and parents and relatives rallied around you more; I get taht they don't know better but I wish they could truly understand how much that impacts a person's self esteem. You have a beautiful skin tone; I love it! I don't know who else is in the pic w/you in this article; but you both are gorgeous! Thank you for writing this article! God bless you!

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  6. Hey !!! Anyone who knows you knows how stunning a person you are!!! Putting up with me all these years.....and you are the best friend anyone would yearn for and Vino's lucky he's got you and so's little Mel!!!! what's on the outside should never matter and wonder when certain people would realise that!!! When someone looks at another person and says..."oh you've become dark or you've put on weight"... I wish the day would come when the other person simply has the courage to say "None of your business" ... Alas life ain't that simple especially in the middle class community!!!! But Anna I have known you a long time and I know you are that courageous person I have always wanted to me...the one who knows when to say NO!!!! Love you and Mel loads!!! You'll get through it hon!

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  8. You are beautiful, our dark skin rocks

  9. I married my late wife because she was intelligent! And color was never a factor! Before we got married she told me that her mother thought that I was too good-looking for her, and she also told me that our child could come out black! I told her I didn't care because to me what's important it's what's in a person's mind and heart!

  10. I have faced this too quite a bit, since I was young. But I am proud of your grace under pressure. Kudos and good luck!

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  12. black is beautiful, trying my best to make my young son endorse this too, always encourage him to make friends without considering their skin color, though despite all that he still comes up with this notion every now and then about how fairer is better. any ways hope my efforts rub on him well :)

  13. You are so beautiful, Franklin. I look at your smile in the pictures and simply cannot imagine somebody calling you anything other than beautiful, with that gorgeous skin.

    Even I try to bite my tongue to stop myself from yelling when I hear my aunts discuss a marriage they just went to and make comments like "She is so dark, he probably married her for money.". It also hurts more when people act like a man made a big sacrifice for marrying a dark girl. How is it a sacrifice, and how does he instantly attain sainthood for marrying a dark girl?

    I too am called "stubborn" and “picky" for refusing to call myself 'fair' in the matrimonial website, and also for calling myself fat (I am, really).

    I really wish at least women themselves would try not to change to fit these stereotypes that the society has set for us.

    Good luck with everything.

  14. Very nice article. Social and public harassment of dark skinned people and dark skin lovers is despicable. Though I am very curious to know if author's husband is taller or shorter than her and if taller whether she would have cared if he was shorter.

    Though social discrimination in India is undoubtedly fueled by racism and casteism, evolutionary psychology tell us men almost universally prefer fairer and shorter mate and women prefer taller and darker mate, in all races of the world. Hence the phrase 'tall, dark, handsome'.

    1. That's not true, the obsession by some with "fair" skin is a rather recent thing brought about as a result of Euro-centric colonialism. There in nothing universal or natural about

  15. Loved the article AJ Franklin...all the best. We all are with you...hope we can gift your daughter a better India :)

  16. Loved this post and especially the last few lines. Well done. We will see the change sooner than later. The world is gonna change.

    - Tapabrata

  17. A J Franklin, you are beautiful, sensitive, warm and conscientious. Wish you the very best in your life. I am sure you are a wonderful mother too. We, at Cupraa support the cause "Dark is Beautiful" not because it is fashionable to do so, but because we genuinely believe that skin color does not make a person, his or her personality does.

  18. AJ, your relatives are stupid. They need to read up on evolution, genetics and melanin. They also need to stop harassing you. I hope they read this post. That is, if they're capable of reading.

  19. AJ, dear, you are really beautiful and one of a kind! I so agree with you and the other posters here, real beauty is much more than skin color. People who keep telling you to be 'fairer' are poor, misguided souls who have lost an opportunity to love and appreciate what god has made. To those people, I ask, if having a dark skin tone is so bad, why is Naomi Campbell considered a super model??

    I have been your friend for a long time now, and I really do believe you are a beautiful and lovely person. Keep your chin up, never let any one tell you you'r not beautiful, n keep writing :)


  20. Its sad to say that a huge majority of our population still give a lot of importance to the colour of skin. The hundreds of metric tonnes of fairness products sold in our country only prove how ignorant, shallow and weak we have become.

    I hope we, as a civilization, come out of our insecurities and realise that skin colour is nothing but the product of melanin in our skin our body decided we needed to protect us from the intense Sun in the region we evolved over the last few millenia. It has absolutely nothing to do with pwrsonality, character or how good looking a person is.

    Hope it happens soon enough. I fear a huge increase in the number of people with skin disorders in the near future due to the use of these fairness products which do more harm than anything at all.

  21. Hey you for what you are ...and really proud about every word that you have put in here sweets....

  22. Beautiful post...My husband is dark and I am wheatish...and our daughter in between. When we come for visits people ask why being in the US she not fair... . I love my daughters complexion..I reply to some saying there will come a time when families will start saying" Karutta penkutti annengil mathi" :) { we prefer a dark girl }

  23. beautiful post.. and it relates so much to me.. I am dark skinned and my husband is really fair (like one of those north indian boys).. but he loved me for who I am and got married to me irrespective of all the bias shown :) and fortunately or unfortunately my son is born fair skinned.. and not a word of regret abt him has been uttered by my inlaws since he was born fair..

  24. Good post...we have been under white people rule for a couple of centuries and must have got ingrained in our genes to look at white as a superior color...probably it will take another couple of centuries to undo it...provided the fairy-creamy ads stop reinforcing the idea...but economics might not let that happen...

  25. When my wife went for the H4 visa stamping, the interviewer looked at my daughter (who is more 'white' than brown people) and asked my wife if her husband was an american or an Indian. I felt like I should have been there to give her a lecture.

  26. You have just written the story of my life . Like you my friend I too thought a child would change . I have not yet conceived but I know that the abuse for my complexion will not stop after a baby is born . I am so scared to conceive that if my child is dark these people will not leave it alone . They will start abusing my child too . But its time to take a stand .

  27. I would like to please add that you have beautiful eyes and a gorgeous smile. Your strength of character and the way you have handled everything so far is simply superb. Well done, for not letting people make you do all their stupid suggestions. I wish you did not let it get to your head. But, yes, I understand. It is not fair that you had to face all these sadness and mental trauma. It really irks me that your relatives and these other people could openly harass you like this. They will all learn one day! That's all. I admire you for what you are. Thank you for standing up for yourself!