This is for my little sister (and all of the girls like her).
I don’t know the exact moment when you realized that being dark is undesirable in our world. I don’t know if there was an exact moment or if a series of gradually insidious messages caused you to believe it.
What I do know is that a couple of months ago, when our mom told me over the phone that you had asked her, “Why am I the darkest one in the family?” (as though being the darkest one is such a horrible thing to be), my heart dropped into my stomach, and I wished that I could just transport myself back home, back to your room, so that I could hug you and tell you over and over again that you are beautiful.
I don’t know the exact moment when you realized that you weighed more than me or when you started comparing yourself to the other (skinny, blonde, white) girls around you. When you call yourself fat (as though being fat is such a horrible thing to be), I want to tell you that you’re not.
I want to tell you that even if you were, you would still be beautiful. I want to tell you that every bone in your body, that every muscle that helps you move, every layer of fat belonging to you, is a miracle.
I want to tell you that you are a miracle, and I do, but I don’t know if you will ever believe me.
I don’t know the exact moment when you started to believe that your teeth were not straight enough for our world or when you started to believe that your face was not pretty enough or when you started to believe that you were not good enough.
Sometimes I think that telling you to fuck the patriarchy, decolonize your mind and your body would be too much right now while you’re still so young and vulnerable, but I tell you anyway.
I tell you that you feel this way because of racist, patriarchal, colonial structures that have been put into place in our world. I tell you that they have made me hate myself, too, they once made me want to eat less (for all the wrong reasons), they once made me want to exercise more (for all the wrong reasons), they once made me thankful (for all the wrong reasons) for my lighter-brown skin, and they once made me hate my smile so much that I wore braces all throughout high school.
Often, I still don’t feel like my face is pretty enough for our world. And, I still don’t believe that I am good enough for our world.
But the truth is that I am. And you are, too.
I wish that you could see yourself like I see you. I wish that you could see your unwaveringly good heart, your determined work ethic, the way your smile lights up a room and the way your laugh is so contagious. I wish that you could see yourself in all of your beauty. I wish you would realize that you are everything to me.
When I write, I write for you (and all of the girls like you). When I work, I work for you (and all of the girls like you). When I fight, I fight for you (and all of the girls like you).
I don’t know the exact moment when you started to believe that the world can’t be changed, when you started to believe that there’s no hope for something different, for something better. I know that I once believed that too.
I would once look at the world through hopeless eyes and think to myself, what’s the point in fighting if I’m going to be fighting in vain? I would think to myself, there is no point.
But that is not true.
It’s not true, and you make me want to change the world. You make me want to fight for something better. You make me believe that there can be something better. Nobody deserves to feel day-in and day-out that they are not good enough, but our world makes so many people feel day-in and day-out that they would rather be anywhere but here.
This is an unsustainable world and we can fix it. We can create something better.
I want you to realize that I stand by your side, not above or in front of you. I want you to remember that you are not in my shadow, you are not on my leash; you are holding my hand, and you are right next to me.
You are the sun. You are a miracle, and I love you.
This was for my little sister (and all of the girls like her).
Sanjana Lakshmi is an undergraduate student who wants to change the world, originally from the Bay Area and now studying political science and legal studies at Northwestern University. She dreams of one day dismantling capitalism, along with, patriarchy and structural racism, and obviously she can’t to this single-handedly, so please join her. But, in the meantime she hopes to help her community in any way she can. Lakshmi is particularly passionate about gender justice, but cares about all kinds of human rights issues as well. She also enjoys Indian food, falafel, mint chocolate chip ice cream, hiking, hanging out with her dog and her family, and sleeping.