When I was younger, I wondered why God made me brown. I would look at my skin and body structure and wish for something different. Why couldn’t I have had white skin? I envied the girls with tall legs, blue eyes, and long blonde hair. After all, these were the girls I grew up seeing on television and in magazines. Even my father is white, and I could have just as easily come out with lighter skin. My little brother did.
But instead, I was handed my lot.
Short legs. Brown hair. Brown skin. A petite figure that sometimes makes me feel like I’m invisible to others.
In school, my favorite teachers all happened to have white skin. This wasn’t on purpose. They were just the ones who seemed to show an interest in me. I took advanced classes, and noticed that many of the “advanced” teachers did not have colored skin like me. And Principals? Mostly white. Even the good schools in El Paso had a reputation for being the “white” schools.
Now that I’m a little older, I see how odd this is considering how I grew up in a city where over 80% of the population is Hispanic. I guess I didn’t see it then, but now I realize that maybe this fed into my shame.
Save for my mom, I didn’t have many people of color to look up to while growing up.
Issues of race are weird to talk about, especially in America where you often feel like you need to walk on eggshells just to describe someone as “white” or “brown” or “black.” But, I’m going to talk about it because it’s been on my heart lately.
Recently, I read a chapter in Elisabeth Elliot’s book Let Me Be a Woman. In this book, she describes a story of a missionary who grew up wishing she looked different. Like me, she wanted long legs and light colored hair. But when she was older, she found herself in China, surrounded by people with similar structures and hair like hers. Looking around her, she exclaimed, “Lord God, you know what you’re doing.”
As an educator, I do not want my students growing up being ashamed of their skin color. And I see how imperative it is for someone like me, with brown skin, to show the younger generation that girls like me can rise in leadership too. We can be good teachers. We can be educated and smart and achieve our dreams.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this now, but maybe what I really want to tell you is that whoever you are, I hope you realize how important it is for you to not hide yourself because you’re ashamed of how God made you. I hope you shine. This younger generation needs a person like you to look up to. Someone out there can relate to your story. Whether you’re white or brown or black or purple, you were made just as you are for a purpose. I have no idea what that purpose is, but God does. I hope that one day, you figure it out too.
Even now, I observe that some of the students I attract as a teacher are students like me in either personality and/or looks. Growing up, I was quiet, studious, creative and observant. I felt like an outcast.
Like a plethora of young teachers, I want to be liked by all. I want to connect with every single student. And I am indeed trying to be “all things to all people.” But I take comfort in knowing that I am who God intended me to be – a short, mixed race female who is sometimes quiet, but still has a lot to say.
I’ve been given the talents I’ve been given on purpose. Through this, I am able to relate to certain people that others cannot.
I am no longer ashamed of my brown skin, dark hair, and short petite figure. I long to show younger, Hispanic woman that we too can exhibit positive qualities. We too can lead and be strong. I hope that wherever I go in this life, I can show people this. I am proud of my skin color because I now see the purpose of it. It is a part of my story, a story that God can use.
One day, when all is said and done, I hope we can grasp the tapestry of grace over our lives, viewing certain experiences in our past not as meaningless occurrences, but as threads winding into a story that make us unique. We can see how God turned bad experiences into good. We too can pray this prayer of faith: “Lord God, you know what you’re doing.”