"Hey, look at that girl. Isn't she pretty?"
"Oh yeah, but too bad she's dark."
These are words that two boys whispered about me when I passed by them. Too bad she's dark. Wow. What started out as an uplifting comment crashed down in an instant because I possessed what they believed to be an unappealing skin tone. Imagine being constantly belittled because of a characteristic you cannot change. I am a victim of a type of discrimination that many people are not aware of. I am a victim of a sort of prejudice that the media advocates by barraging our society with notions of what it believes is desirable and undesirable. I am a victim of what is known as colorism.
Colorism is the practice of discrimination based on skin color. It provides disadvantages to dark-skinned individuals and advantages to light-skinned ones. Recently, this form of oppression has been getting more and more prevalent in economic, social, and cultural institutions. Dark-skinned people are commonly viewed as less capable and beautiful. In South Asia specifically, lighter-skinned men and women are more favorable in many aspects.
The discrimination began due to the implementation of the Caste system and Aryan traditions practiced by the British during its imperialism in India. Now, colorism is regularly seen in Indian pop culture, such as Bollywood films; the relation between dark skin color and ugliness or evil are evident in many South Asian movies and cultural commodities. Advertisers regard it as an effective marketing strategy for selling skin bleaching creams. Men take it into account when choosing their brides for arranged marriages. It is even seen in Indian school textbooks and other sources of curriculum. It is time for this persecution to come to an end.
Because of our peers, magazines, billboards, and advertisements, we are ingrained with the notion that having light skin would be an ideal advantage in every situation. But why are fairer desis praised for their appearance when darker desis who bear the same features are considered ugly? In a social experiment I came across, five men were shown two pictures: one of a light-skinned Indian woman with a rather plain appearance and one of a dark-skinned woman with a stunning visage. They had to choose which one they considered more beautiful. ALL five men selected the light-skinned woman. This absolutely disgusts me. This bigotry has been cycled down for so many generations, and I am amazed that it is not tiring for us to idolize the same type of people.
An opposer of colorism in another blog beautifully asks, "You all claim to be so progressive, to consider every skin tone beautiful. But where is that mindset when you benefit so much from being fair while your darker sisters get torn apart every day?" You see, our worth is degraded. We are at a social, or even an economical, disadvantage. Society will give us a certain level of privilege based on skin tone, which is, once again, an inalterable trait! If you believe that a dark person cannot be successful, go educate yourself right now. Look up Mindy Kaling. Aziz Ansari. Suraj Sharma. Archana Kumar. All of these notable people have stated in interviews that they hard to work twice as hard as their light-skinned competitors to earn their positions as actors, singers, and other careers they pursue in. But they do not regret having dark skin; it helped them move forward with more confidence and determination in achieving their aspirations. So for my fellow chocolate-skinned friends out there, don't take Priyanka Chopra's or Shah Rukh Khan's tempting advice on using fairness creams and skin bleaching products. Don't fall into the hands of societal pressure. Most importantly, don't apologize for your skin tone. God would not have created different skin tones without a reason at hand. Think of your gift of melanin as a blessing, because it truly is.