This article is a part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020
By Tara Hebbar
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
In the backdrop of the ongoing conversations on racism, a similar conversation has been sparked globally. In India, the focus has been slightly shifted towards the ever prevalent concern of colourism. A topic that is related to racism and is defined by many Indians’ obsession with their skin color. Time has introduced creams and concoctions that apparently makes skin fairer. With multiple platforms that support this idea, can we blame young and old for desiring whiter skin?
With media and even camera filters replicating this need, people have developed a mindset that considers fair skin a few notches above the rest.
Matrimonial decisions and so many events and ideas have a bias against dark skin. Recently a skin whitening product formerly known as ‘fair and lovely’ has decided to change their name and remove the ‘fair’ from the equation to address this topic. Though I do believe this is the first step in the right direction, I consider this act some sort of hypocrisy. This is due to the fact that though they are changing the name, they still continue to distribute the product and endorse the same ideas. I have never dwelt upon this topic much at all, and skin color has never played a huge role in my life. I have also never had a prejudice against someone due to this factor. But as I take a moment to reflect and think over my past, unfortunately I have witnessed and heard several instances when these situations have played out.
From Snapchat to Instagram filters that all not only promote a standardized idea of beauty but also almost always make the skin more fair by default. Many families also pass on the idea that dark skin is a derogatory factor. People are constantly being complimented on for having a lighter complexion and many being told off behind their backs for not having the same. With social media and youth always wanting to have a certain picture painted of themselves, they tend to follow the norms of society such as this one. Shaadi.com, an Indian marriage site, says fair skin is a key deciding factor. Pregnant women eat and do all sorts of things to assure their un-baby has a light complexion. Even our role models, actors and actresses go through several skin lightening treatments and don’t cease to endorse the products that do so. When such things happen how can we blame people for having such a bias for white skin?
According to me, it’s not people’s faults for having such a mindset but that doesn’t make it right. It isn’t ok to judge people and make assumptions on them based on skin color. People should be allowed to be comfortable in their skin. Companies that endorse such a mindset need to stop because as long as their products are being sold, it shows that the need to become fairer is still present. Changing the name is definitely the beginning but the next few steps have to be taken with urgency. Children need to be told otherwise or even better not made conscious about this at all.
Our generation has done so much and we have the power, the platform and the courage to make such changes and raise our voice to them. If people really didn’t think about their skin color there wouldn’t be such a problem. By working together we can create a Xanadu where this is an unheard of issue. We need to break the chain and barrier to create this change. Our prejudice against darker skin not only creates certain beauty standards but also intersects with many life changing ideas and topics. Industries that make millions are being established on the basis of confining people to their skin color, making it a very (un)-fair and not so lovely comparison that darkens and overtakes the mindsets of people in India and all over the world.