Skin Deep

See people for their true colors.

Growing up, I was picked on. I was bullied at school, and some members of my family had their fair share of picking on me as well.

I can remember being in elementary school and hoping and praying that I would not be the ugly duckling. I hoped beyond hope that how I looked as a child would not reflect how I would look as an adult. Constantly hearing ridicule about my height, my skin, my weight and my hair, I prayed that one day I would wake up looking like…well, someone like Karina Lombard.

The problem is I didn’t.

I stopped growing at ten years old. I was in the fifth grade. Here I am, a few decades later, and I am no bigger. As a child, my hair was stick-straight. Instead of improving, after puberty and a couple of home perms, my hair became more like shrubbery – perhaps even a topiary if and when I could get it under control. My face looked the same. My dream of becoming the beautiful swan was shot down early – very early.

So I didn’t become the beautiful swan. The appearance I so desperately wanted to shed held fast and has not disappeared.

For me, it was (and always has been) a matter of wanting people to look beyond my appearance. As a child, I could easily tell you how much more there was to me than just this small, awkward body. I still can. I am way more than this little 5’1” container would have you believe. Because I know there is more to me than what I look like, I know there’s more to all of us than what we look like.

This is why I have such a difficult time with racists, sexists, and bigots. If there is one thing that I absolutely hate, it’s hate. How on Earth could anyone define or despise a person or people based on something that isn’t even telling of who they are as a person or group, such as their skin color?

If I look at you, yes, I will see your appearance first. But I will also be listening to your words and watching your actions. I’ll see how you speak and with what kind of tone. I will be paying attention to how you interact with others (especially those who are “different” or less fortunate).

I will begin to see more of who you are inside. As time progresses, we all get to see our friends and family for who they really are. Who hasn’t met someone who is simply gorgeous on the outside, but is incredibly hideous on the inside?

Skin deep means just that. It’s superficial. Unfortunately, as a society, we idolize beauty and perfection and plastic surgery. We determine another’s value simply by looking at them. It’s not easy, but what we need to do is change our values. To stop focusing on our waist line and the color of our skin. We need to keep our eyes fixed on what is more important: who we really are as people.

With Maya Angelou’s recent passing, we have all lost a hero and an icon. One of my (many) favorite quotes from her is this,

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

It’s true. We all know it’s true. War is often waged on fear and prejudice. It kills people literally and metaphorically. Hate, prejudice, bigotry – none of them serve any purpose. They allow us to excuse our behavior by focusing on the differences and appearances of others.

We need to stop. We need to turn things around. We need to look at other people as just that, as fellow human beings. Let us all remember that our outer shells are not necessarily a good reflection of whom or what lies beneath. Forget skin color and hair color. Let’s look at everyone’s true colors.