Monday, September 26, 2011

How Fair is it?

I have had discussions regarding the "discrimination on basis of skin colour in India" with a lot of people. Most of the times, the discussion ends too soon with responses like "It's not discrimination", "You are getting it all wrong" and even, "You are so negative"!

Really? Is the fact that a huge majority of people consider fair skin as beautiful and dark skin just the opposite, not discrimination? What is the reason that lighter skin colour is called "fair". Is dark skin colour "unfair?"

Once, my friend was telling us all about some girl. Someone asked "How does she look? Is she beautiful?", to which he replied, "Nah. She's absolutely black!" I was amazed. I interrupted with "what has being black got to do with being beautiful or ugly?" And to this, all others were amazed. They silenced me with, "What is it with you? Do you have to find reasons to argue all the time?"

When I was discussing this with my colleagues, someone said, "It is not bias. It is pretty obvious that human beings find anything that is cleaner and clearer more attractive." How is dark skin, unclean and unclear, I fail to understand.

I, myself, am not light-skinned. I have noticed several times that the pictures in which the flashlight makes me look light-skinned are liked by people. I tried putting up some of my pictures in which I looked dark, on Facebook, only to get so many negative comments that I felt embarrassed and had to pull them off. People keep telling me that if only I were "fairer", I would have swept all guys off their feet. Some offer me valuable advices like having my skin bleached or applying Fair & Lovely. I have never tried any of it.

Talking of fairness creams, why aren't they illegal? They feed the ego of light-skinned people and make dark-skinned Indians loathe their skin colour. In their advertisements they show lives of people changing miraculously on becoming fair-skinned. This might actually be true in India, considering the inherent obsession for light skin in Indian society. A bigger shock is that huge bollywood celebrities endorse such products.

But should it really come as a shock? Because Bollywood has since eternity promoted light skin. Dusky beauties have a place in Bollywood. There is Bipasha, and there is Rani. But they are artificially made to look fairer in movies and on magazine covers. When they don't have faith in their natural self, how would a common Indian admire dark skin?


It's not only about people liking light-skinned people, it is also about people disliking dark skin, even if it is their own! Is skin colour a valid reason to have low self-esteem?

Parents don't teach their kids to be proud of their dark skin. They ask them not to play in the sun for long, or they'll get tanned. They admire the light-skinned children in the family. They say "look, how fair you were when you were born. And look what you've become now!" I have seen little kids comparing their colours amongst themselves, and the light-skinned ones showing off theirs.

This bias becomes most discriminatory and apparent when marriages are being set up. Girls get their photographs clicked at photo studios, where they photoshop the picture to make the girl look fairer than she actually is. Let us consider a rare situation where in a couple, one is light skinned and one is dark skinned. What will be the most common public reaction? "He is so fair! How did he choose such a dark skinned girl?" and "The girl is so beautiful (because she is fair), I wonder what she saw in that black guy". Families of guys reject a girl only because "the girl is too black".

I have also noticed the difference in reactions of Indians towards a foreigner who is white skinned against the reaction to a foreigner who is black-skinned. People want to talk to white skinned foreigners, they want to get their picture clicked with them. And wherever a dark skinned foreigner goes, words like "kalu" and "negro" can be heard.

I have even seen people who think south Indians are ugly because they have darker skin than north Indians. Also, due to my dark skin, people have often asked if I am a south Indian. I wonder why Indians forget that Lord Krishna is called "Shyam" , he is said to be of the colour of the evening sky, and yet he is the most admired God for his beauty and charm. The general idea of beauty has been so messed up that people have starting depicting beautiful Krishna as fair-skinned. They do it to their kids. They do it to their Gods!

This is a serious issue and everybody ought to realize the need to do something about it. Parents and teachers should start teaching the kids the importance of preserving their identity gifted to them by God. Skin lightening creams and treatments should be devalued, and in fact, banned. Wouldn't you ban an advertisement that exploits caste differences to sell their product? Then why not ban the meaningless advertisements of these companies that exploit the senseless obsession of Indians with fair skin to sell their products? We want to see dark skinned models and actresses in ads and on magazine covers, so that a dark skinned little girl does not start thinking that she has to be fair to look like a model. We want more dark skinned beauty pageant winners.

There is much more to this issue than what I have mentioned here. You might have observed or experienced less than this or you might have experienced even more. High probability is that you might not have even noticed the wrongness of this. But it is time that everyone understands that it is wrong. Raise your voice against fairness products. Tell me your experiences. Share ideas to create awareness.

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.