A Love Letter to My Melanin

Dear Melanin,

I heard that you are having trouble as more and more people continue to ignore your meaning and underestimate your power. They emulate the rich culture you have given us people of color. Whether it regards traditional African tribal garments, cornrows and hot combs, or bindis at Coachella, they label these significant symbols in our societies as “chic new trends.” But I want you to know how much you mean to me and how fond I am of you. People should take the time to love and know you before they imitate you, make light of your teachings, and patronize those of us who have finally found an admiration for you and our heritages. You are so much more than toasty tan skin, and the ranges of yellows and browns that precede you.

I was aware from as early as five, that I, frankly, despised you because you bestowed upon me this large, uncontrollable, and what was seen as “provocative” hair in my whitewashed childhood environment. You gave me these big lips, dark brown eyes, and of course, warm, caramel skin. All the other children had pure, fair skin and eyes that resembled the type of rainbow I would see in the cheesy Lucky Charms commercials and in my dreams. Their colors would range from the lightest of greens to the deepest of blues. I was jealous of them and I wanted to be them. I wanted to run away from who I was and where I came from. I would make my mother tie my hair in the tightest of buns and scream when it would come undone in class. I would let the women at the salon singe their straighteners against my scalp so that my hair could be as fine as possible. During this time, I hated you more than the attributes you had given me. I hated you most of all.

That all changed around the age of 14 when I realized that no one could help me accept myself but me. I started to see the beauty you have and the comfort you give. For, now, when I am facing conflict, I am able to gather inspiration from those like me, those who have possessed both large and small quantities of you within their being. I see the brilliance left behind and the customs which I now hold very dear. But when I see people mimic these colored societal values in a materialistic manner, those meaningful, deep-rooted values lose their worth and magic. I just wish others could learn to adore you the way I have and leave you as you are. Because when I look at you I see my mother, my father, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and my close friends and peers. I hold my head high with pride at a rainbow as beautiful as the one I witnessed among those little white kids in my neighborhood. We are a united community because of you, and that makes me love you most.


Zoe Gonzalez

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