“The above was a real conversation I had with a 2nd grader, a child of color who I was working with after school at the time. This child was taking part in an after school program that encouraged lots of outdoor group games for the large population of diverse students we had. As a group game was being led by another staff member, I noticed this child waiting behind. When I approached him he told me what his parents had said. As part of my job I had to respect their family’s rule by not undermining his parents’ authority. However, it felt wrong to me. We walked out together to watch the group game in the shade. Sitting criss-cross, this little boy had to explain and re-explain his situation to his friends passing by wondering why he wasn’t participating in one of his favorite group games. Once the game had finally started he leaned his chin on his hand and gave a soft sigh.
I wanted to tell him he wasn’t the only one- that oceans away there were kids coming in early to get out of the sun, children a few blocks away probably being smothered in sunblock (not to avoid UV rays, but to avoid the harmful tan), parents buying whitening products, relatives warning little ones of the dangers of darker skin tones.
I wanted to reach them all, hold each of their hands and say, “Your skin is just right. It is beautiful and it is all yours. You don’t need to make it any different.”
You don’t need to erase yourself in order to make room for you to be seen and respected. You don’t need to modify your body so that other people give you the time of day. You don’t have to keep to the shadows and carry an umbrella everywhere to avoid being the butt of jokes. Dark skin is beautiful.
But I know they’d have a hard time believing me. Those words would go against everything they’ve learned, all the messages they’ve taken in. So I had to keep reminding them- children of so many beautiful colors, colored perfectly as they are, worthy as they are, enough as they are- wherever I went and worked. At the restaurant where a beautiful toddler of color dropped a toy next to me, and I moved aside and encouraged her to go ahead and pick it up. To the mother and father, who I offered warm smiles to and asked how old their bright little one was. Cradling my nephews, sharing stories and words from a language they can proudly call their own. Displaying my skin, my hands in front of young students, allowing them to explore and examine my own compared to theirs- discovering the beauty in every shade, the importance in respecting the differences, the courage and trust to ask each other questions, the humility to listen.”
“Little Sprout: A Letter to Children of Color”, 2020, L.R. @lrd.ofthefiles
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.