As an adult, I have attempted to rise above the feeling of ‘sticking out like a sore thumb’ which I constantly experienced growing up. I now realise that 3 years of living in London had given me a false sense of belonging or at least blending in. Once more resident in T&T, that façade has been summarily shattered.
Although the population of Trinidad and Tobago has a relatively high percentage of inter-racial mixing, the proportion of said population with lighter skin tones is quite low (in my experience). Low enough that one tends to do a double take when a very light skinned person walks in, and some people even assume that you are not from Trinidad. An important caveat: this is definitely a more common phenomenon in South Trinidad as the proportion of “Trinidad whites” is much lower there than in Port of Spain and environs.
Some would say that I should be used to being singled out for my appearance. Yet it never ceases to discomfit and unsettle me, and even more so when it happens in the work place.
There was a recent and unfortunate incident at work which left me reeling. I sought the opinion of a varied cross section of people to gauge their feelings on it, and the majority viewed it as coming with the territory of being “fair”. In their view, being singled out and taken to task for imaginary infringements of a non-existent dress code policy, and by the least appropriately dressed person in the Company, is something which I must expect because I am “fair”. In their words, I stand out, so my appearance is highlighted and attention is focused on me and clothing missteps real and imagined.
That was actually the second time I was ludicrously singled out for work attire, previously, and incredibly, being informed that I would no longer be able to wear very sensible, neat ballet flats to work but instead should wear high heeled shoes. Seriously? Only me, mind.
No matter how much you rationalize discrimination, whatever the category, it still rankles.