As a kid, I defied staying indoors. As a teenager, I became afraid of the sun. No, I wasn’t worried about getting skin cancer. I was afraid of getting tanned. Growing up, I vividly recall instances where family or friends recommended I put sun block on, not for my protection, but to avoid turning into a creature of the dark-skinned clan because being an exclusive member meant warding off all potential invitations for compliments, and for an Indian girl, being called fair is the greatest praise you can receive.
Thus, from a very early age I learned that having dark skin was something to be embarrassed of. My classmates were also familiar with this racial demarcation, so making fun of kids with a darker skin tone was quite common. The discrimination against dark-skinned people in India is as prevalent among adults as it is at the school level. Did you know that India is the largest market for fairness creams? Preference is given to the fairer kind of our lot and we are a nation divided between the fair-skinned North, and the dark-skinned South (the stereotype for which has no base btw), and this preference for light skin is immediately evident in parents looking for a suitable spouse for their children where extra points are always given if the person is fair-skinned.
Even now, as much as I try not to be so vain about it, I still feel edgy under the suns rays, and I know most people, especially girls, feel the same way. But, it is not our fault. We’ve been conditioned since childhood to hold the fairer-skin tone in higher regard.
If we are wiser than our previous generations, and know better than to judge people based on their skin color, why then are we still stuck in this old and absurd form of racism? Why are we unable to grow out of this discriminatory mindset and look beyond the color of a person’s skin? The answer: Media. I love how everything goes back to them. Corporations are instilling and reinforcing this racism in our minds by promoting beauty products and creams aimed at making the skin fairer. Bollywood actors and actresses’ are only taken on if they are of the fairer variety, and hence we have a great demand for products to make us look less Indian.
What I don’t understand is why Indians are so afraid of looking like Indians. We’re supposed to be in the brown-skin range, for chrissake. There are a spectrum of color tones found in India, ranging from ivory white to midnight black, and we should embrace our differences rather than pick which one is better than the other.
Perhaps this notion of fair = good and dark = bad will slowly seep out of our minds if the media stops reinforcing it and if we stop buying into it. We, on our part, should also stop idolizing white skin. We can start with not buying products such as these:
Just so you know, Fair & Lovely does not work. I recall my cousin smearing his face with it constantly in an attempt to fall within the confines of Indian standards of beauty and, hence be more appealing to the opposite sex. To this day, he’s still dark-skinned. And why should there be anything wrong with that?