Articles

The Fight for Fairness

Author: Revels

Once upon a very British time, when the crown ruled quite a lot of the world, there lay in Asia, a country famous for its heat and spices – India, a majestic land with a thrilling history of battle, love and trade. At one time or another, the different groups that resided within or without it had ruled India, although usually partially, some factions had managed to make almost all of it a part of their little empire.

Now was the turn of the British Raj.

With their posh accents and fine manners they invaded, using the clever front of trade. Slowly but surely they gained stability, till they were able to officially state their hold. The Indians had new rulers after the 800 year rule of the Mughals, more outsiders – the British.

The British gave to the subcontinent some impressive things when they left; infrastructure, education systems, government and more. But they took something greater; they took with them the superiority, the contentment that the people had felt in being just themselves.

These white people had such dashing dresses, such delicate ways, such pretty skin! They had been proud and civilized, they had ruled in ways as to show the general population that they – the British – were better, they knew better and lived better.

That is when the inferiority complex began, that is when our people starting comparing themselves to their former rulers in hopes of somehow attaining their perfection.

Since then, our people have ingrained in themselves this thinking that somehow imitating the west is what would give them respect and a higher status. People who wear western clothing, people with lighter skin or anyone with a better English accent are considered more civilized or of the better class.

Of these three, the colour complex has been most widespread. This does not exclude our intellectuals, even they, the ‘educated’ and ‘enlightened’ part of our society, seem to strive to attain that lighter colour and scoff at the sight of dark skin. Knowing that this senseless discrimination only disturbs the female population – which is always in the search for things to make them prettier – has no effect; your skin is something you will be judged by.

In school, girls are made fun of for their dark skin, at times families point it out in the most horrible fashions, marriage proposals are rejected – there are countless examples of how darker skinned girls have to endure gross discrimination.

Some of our models and actresses have had to bear indecent remarks because they weren’t fair enough! In a country where the sun reigns, one would expect dark skin to be the norm and not the exception, and hence accepted. But this is not the case! We are obsessed with the fairer tones. Although we have had famous individuals speaking out against this irrational infatuation, we still have countless companies promoting their ‘fairness creams’ and ‘recipes to get lighter’ through TV, billboards and campaigning in different institutions. Our grandmothers will whip up organic pastes to somehow make that tan go away; they will try out new methods just to make sure the girls of the family are fair and so ‘pretty’.

So that sums it up: being fair means you’re prettier than the darker girl sitting next to you on the bus. Being fair means you’ll have lots of admirers and friends. Being fair means you’re blessed with beauty.

Revels is a Pakistani student, blogger and contributing writer at The Conversation Room 

You can visit her excellent blog here:

https://identity17.wordpress.com/

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4 comments on “The Fight for Fairness

  1. There’s a common problem here in the US with black/African-American women. A friend of mine (dark-skinned) suggested a documentary called “Dark Girls”… it is very similar to what is happening in India.

    An interesting difference in the U.S. (and I pointed this out to my dark-skinned friend and we had a good laugh over it), is that ALL classes of white women in the U.S. spend equal amounts of money “darkening” their skin. I, personally, never understood the color issue. Beautiful skin, to me, is flawless, regardless of the tone: dark, medium, or light. Beautiful skin has a healthy glow to it. And it is relative…

    As far as fault and where responsibility should lay… is actually the media’s AND the cosmetic company’s responsibility not to buy into these racist tendencies. And the consumer’s to complain and boycott… other than that, changing opinions of older generations? Good luck.

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  2. As I understand it, one aspect of the caste system is that all the upper castes discriminated against the untouchables, more recently called Dalits. I saw on some TV program that even some Christian churches exclude Dalits, though Buddhists have rejected such distinctions. I’ve also read that though untouchables were originally those who worked “impure” jobs, they are also very dark-skinned. So I’m thinking that the preference for lighter skin precedes the arrival of the British by over a thousand years – though I’m sure they made it worse.

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  3. As someone who was raised being referred to as “karupi” (the word for black girl in Tamil) I feel compelled to say something here. The conversation around shadism is one I have participated in many times. It’s always personal and I often think twice before speaking up because I completely internalized the way my family saw me. Thinking back to the way my father looked at me with disgust when he noticed my skin many shades darker over the summer still brings me to a very dark place. The ideals of beauty for a Tamil, Sri Lankan girl was to be fair skinned and thin-two things most Sri Lankan women naturally are not. Ever since I hit double digits in fourth grade, I have always been dark skinned and curvy. Colonialism was a process by which a foreign power dominated and exploited indigenous groups by appropriating their land and resources, extracting their wealth, using them as cheap labour, as well as enforcing assimilation. The racial doctrines and hierarchies of Western societies continue to reinforce patterns of superiority and inferiority. Shadism is just one way in which people aspire to be seen similar to the image of a white individual and therefore deserving of the privileges the title accompanies. Over the last decade or so I have really tried to separate myself from the negative norms of beauty that colonialism brought about but it’s a daily fight for me in a lot of ways!

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    • Wow, thank you for sharing that, it sounds completely tormenting and frustrating that these colonial cultures still hang over us. I completely agree with you. Its clear that previously colonised societies are still shaking off the shackles of being slaves to the colonial masters.

      Here in Ireland for example, people obsess with owning private property as for hundreds of years all land was confiscated from native Irish and given to English Lords and noblemen.

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