A friend and I were discussing a book the other day and in the process of our visit she asked a rhetorical question — “How did white people and western civilization ever get the idea that their way was the only right way?” Her thoughts jarred loose a memory about an incident that happened when I was in India. Northern India had been conquered by a group of people known as Moghuls. They were from the plains of Central Asia. They were lighter skinned and according to anthropologists are from the same branch of humanity as lighter skinned Europeans. The further south you travel in India you notice the people are much darker and part of the native group known as Dravidians. The Moghuls never subdued this group. They had a thousand years or more history of mixing with the people of Africa. I overheard a conversation by two of our guides one day. Both were from Northern India around New Delhi. One of the women had seen a famous Indian movie star. The other guide was very excited and asked, “How light-skinned was she?”
Their conversation hit me so hard that I have never forgotten that day. Everywhere there seems to be the concept that lighter skin means greater beauty and in the progression of things — leads to power and wealth. It was an eye-opener that was really hard to hear.
The six weeks I spent in India, the lectures I heard, the places I visited, the people I met all taught me how little I know about the world in which I live. A world so variegated as to be beyond comprehension. We are each unique and no one person is better than another. It seems as though it is a lesson the world has never learned, because every culture and society constantly belittles the “other”. And we wonder why we can never find peace.
America is so blessed by the rich tapestry of people and cultures that have contributed to our makeup. The history of America is not just a “white” history, but African, Asian, South American, East Indian, Middle Eastern and every other color and creed. That is our greatest strength. Western civilization is younger than the 5000 year old history of India’s people. We now know that human beings came out of Africa and began that great migration to all the corners of the world.
Public Radio had an interview recently with a Latina woman who talked about self-image and learning that every culture sees beauty in a certain way. My vanilla-colored skin is a far cry from the exotic beauty of many mixed races across the continents. Body shape and size, music, art and other cultural aspects of national identity are all good and strong. It seems that Western Civilization has fed the world “the great lie” that “white is good” and that other gradations of color are not on an equal level, but are lesser than.
It is time this fantasy was put to rest. When we combine our energies and our cultures we are like a strongly interwoven rope. We can do great things for the human race and sustain this planet which the Creator has given us. Life is good when we are one.