"You're too pretty and lightskin to be Haitian" - And what does Haitian "look" like?

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

Have you ever been told you are too PRETTY or too LIGHTSKIN to be Haitian? Many Haitians with fairer skin, and of features with a closer proximity to Eurocentric beauty standards, - encounter this experience, and it's a frustrating one to live, because what exactly is a Haitian person supposed to look like? Many people have this idea that people from one specific country look the same, and that is simply absurd.

Prejudice is the act of judging without knowing any information. This is an act that is done by everyone, including myself. We all judge certain issues and events without obtaining any knowledge, but we tend to keep it to ourselves. Unfortunately, many people do not keep those opinions to themselves. They act as if their opinion is correct, when it isn't. Society has a way they perceive the Haitian people, and the majority of people believe it without taking the time to consider the diversity of our culture and people.

Growing up in the United States I encountered many people reacting in a shocking manner, because to them I did not “look” Haitian. They would always proceed by telling me that I did not look Haitian, because I was “too pretty and too light skinned”. This statement was always ridiculous to me, since I was aware that my people were ALL beautiful no matter the color of their skin. Considering that this began at such a young age, I never responded. I would just look at them as if they were feeble-minded. As I matured, I learned that this was the mixture of a few things; xenophobia and colorism.

Xenophobia is "an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries". In a country such as the United States, what they are implying its that Haitians are ugly, and not light skinned enough as a whole, to be pretty: because beauty is attributed to lighter skin, due to its proximity to whiteness. Haitians are told to be this savage, poor, primitive people. When a Haitian person is lighter than what they suppose Haitians are, and therefore of higher standard, willfully ignorant foreigners find it odd.

Assumptions made about lighter skinned people, in comparison to their darker counterparts, are simply too positive to be associated with what foreigners have been taught about Haiti. Furthermore, the maintenance of the binary, that dark is bad, ugly, and savage, and light is on the contrary, good, pure and overall better, that colorism entertains, is fundamental to white people's self concept. Another very important factor to that ideology, is that if these First world countries, with greater (in numbers) lighter skinned - read white- populations are powerful, it is not without the exploitation of third world countries. Ideas that their people are lesser beings, whether it be because of the color of their skin, or simply their economic ranking as an entire people - simply helps perpetuate the systems that harm us, consequently swelling their ego and pockets. It wouldn't be a reach to state that any challenge of those ideas, or the telling of the truth creates a fear, a nudge.

In other words, people are just so scared of our Haitian beauty, and instead of admitting that we are a beautiful society they would rather act clueless, and ignorant. The Haitian community is filled with more diversity than one can handle, so they fear us. The fear that they encounter is the fear of our beauty and diversity, because according to them Haitians are all dark skinned and ugly. So when they stumble upon our beauty, they are what this generation calls SHOOK!

As time went by, and technology began to advance you would think that they would do some research to learn that just because a group of people are from one country, it does not mean they should all look alike. We are not a monolith, we are all different and beautiful in our own way, which helps us make up our community more sublime. That knowledge, however, wouldn't serve them well.

Written by Saskya Altieri

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