Asia

Daring to be Dark: Fighting Against Colorism in South Asian Cultures, Because We Ain’t About That Life

Fair and Lovely — the highly sought after skin lightening cream sold in nearly every store and marketplace I visited as a child in my hometown of Bangalore. I often found myself examining the models featured on every product, positioned in order from lightest to darkest; the fairest-skinned model being the focal point of the image. Commercial breaks advertised the brand religiously, using famous Indian actors and actresses to endorse their products. I didn’t think too much of it then, but those advertisements were extremely transparent in the way they portrayed dark skin as something that needed “fixing.” They almost always depicted dark-skinned women staring at their reflection with resentment, criticizing themselves for not being able to get married or make a name for themselves; but as soon as they used the “magical cream” meant to beautify them, they’d instantly appear more confident and fulfilled.

Growing up, I was always praised for my fair complexion — constantly complimented and envied by middle-aged women who whispered in hushed voices about how I’d “never have a problem getting married someday.” My skin tone, they told me, was “rare” and something to “preserve” and that I should feel “grateful for being born this way.” Even as a child, I thought it odd and uncomfortable that I was treated so differently from my own relatives and friends, whose dark skin was used against them from day one. In the innocence of youth, however, I didn’t realize just how much of an impact these hurtful and demeaning sentiments could actually have.

Colorism, a term coined by American novelist Alice Walker, has been deeply ingrained in South Asian communities for generations. Lighter skin has been equated to a greater standard as something to strive and attain for, while darker skin is degraded and shamed, made out to be some kind of “curse” for those who “are forced to live with it.”

This prejudice against individuals with dark skin tones is prevalent to this day, with origins going back far before Europeans began to colonize the Indian subcontinent.

The caste system, though caste discrimination has been outlawed by the Indian government; still plays a tremendous role in shaping Indian society and the social hierarchy throughout South Asia. The system divides Hindus into different categories based on their status and privilege; granting rights to the upper castes (Brahmin) over the lower castes (Sudras). The wealthy in pre-colonial times were likely to spend more time indoors among their valuable possessions, unlike the less fortunate — the peasants and servants who worked tirelessly under the blazing hot sun. This essentially led to lighter skin being associated with the upper class; a symbol of wealth and prosperity. European colonization and influence, of course, only helped reinforce the idea that lighter skin and “whitewashed features” were more desirable and widely accepted.

Colorism is an issue affecting both men and women, but is definitely more pervasive toward the latter. Teaching young girls society’s idea of “perfection and beauty” and using that to raise them is so disgustingly toxic — spoonfeeding concepts about “risk factors” involved in exposing oneself to the sun or making habits of using skin lightening regiments only leads to widespread discrimination that women are likely to face for the rest of their lives. There’s already so much negativity and sexism thrown at them from day one for simply being a girl, but add the color of their skin to the mix, and they face rejection and discrimination on a much larger scale.

Though most of the South Asian population is dark skinned, film industries and modeling agencies constantly look for the lightest possible person to feature in their work. They’re given starring roles, applauded for their beautiful complexion; while darker skinned models and actors (perhaps those even more talented than their counterparts) are shoved into the background, left with short and meaningless roles. I grew up an avid fan of Bollywood films, but looking back now it is undoubtedly evident that there was a lack of true and honest representation within the casts.

Representation matters — that feeling of belonging and confidence in one’s potential is worth fighting for.

Recently, there’s been an upsurge in campaigns seeking to eradicate the concept of colorism and bring about change for more inclusive societies. Nandita Das, an Indian actress and film director, became an activist for the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign against racism in the Indian media after being told to “lighten her skin” if she wanted to play upper-class roles. Though many argue that a mere campaign will not bring about the change she desires, Das says, “Prejudice or conditioning is not a habit; it’s much deeper than that. But we have to be hopeful and optimistic and believe that this can change within a generation.” 

Sabyasachi Mukherji, Indian fashion designer from Kolkata, has also gained widespread attention for hiring dark skinned models to pose in his elaborate and intricate designs; previously very uncommon in the modeling agency. More recently, a global campaign against colorism on social media launched by three students from the University of Texas at Austin sought to combat the under-representation of people of color in the media. The campaign, entitled “Unfair and Lovely“, asked dark-skinned South Asians to post their photos online and show that they stood in solidarity with the essential message of the campaign.

#unfairandlovely | By Pax Jones

A post shared by Unfair & Lovely (@unfairandlovely_) on

i'm always fetishized for my skin colour and it's something that has bothered me for ages. being comfortable in my own skin is something that I have attempted to achieve over recent years especially with being an Indian girl living in Australia. the constant remarks of my skin colour, due to the fact that I'm darker than most Indian girls is because of the fact that I'm "south Indian". I have been taunted and put down for being Indian, and this is why I believe it is so important that South Asian people everywhere should embrace their culture. if not us, then who will? be proud of who you are, and be proud of your background. We have the most richest foundations of culture and we deserve to be given the utmost respect when it comes to our colour or our ethnicities, we're all human. – @snapnak ?

A post shared by @reclaimthebindi on

Most of the millennial generation seems to have mastered the idea of celebrating diversity, but that does not mean colorism has been completely wiped off the slate. There are still growing stigmas against dark skin within South Asian families, both abroad and in our home countries. I had a conversation with a close friend not too long ago where we shared our concerns about this issue; about how we did not want our children, especially our daughters, to grow up hearing the anti-melanin sentiments we did. Young girls are especially prone to succumb to society’s standards and are more impressionable to the negative and unrealistic expectations forced upon them.

If we’re to see change in the coming generations, it’s our job as future parents or role models to step up and do our part in reminding our children that they are beautiful whether they’re light or dark, that their worth is never determined by what others deem to be ‘perfect’, that it’s okay to be unfair and lovely, and that beauty is never skin deep. We’re not about that life. And we never will be.

Comments

comments

Simra Mariam

Intersectional feminist, human rights activist, and full-time coffee lover. Simra, an 18-year-old aspiring writer from Pennsylvania, hopes to major in journalism and political science and inspire positivity & ingenuity through her work.

80 Comments

80 Comments

  1. Sam

    March 25, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t even know how I finished up here, but I assumed this post was great.
    I don’t recognize who you’re but certainly you are going to a famous blogger when you are not already.
    Cheers!

  2. antibiotics read

    March 26, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    I am now not certain the place you’re getting your info, but great topic.
    I must spend some time studying more or understanding more.

    Thank you for great information I used to be on the lookout
    for this info for my mission.

  3. Ramonita

    March 27, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Howdy! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I needed to ask.
    Does building a well-established blog like yours take a large amount of work?
    I am completely new to running a blog but I do write in my journal daily.

    I’d like to start a blog so I can share my experience and views online.

    Please let me know if you have any kind of suggestions or tips for new aspiring blog owners.

    Appreciate it!

  4. car rental

    March 28, 2017 at 2:39 am

    You’re so awesome! I don’t suppose I’ve read a single thing like that before.
    So great to discover someone with a few genuine thoughts on this topic.
    Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

  5. exercise program

    March 28, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  6. Silvia Odete Morani Massad

    March 29, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Hi, this weekend is fastidious in support of me, as
    this occasion i am reading this impressive educational post here at
    my home.

  7. spinning workout

    March 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    It’s hard to come by experienced people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking
    about! Thanks

  8. buy traffic

    April 1, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted
    to say wonderful blog!

  9. way google

    April 1, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Thankfulness to my father who stated to me concerning this web site, this weblog is in fact awesome.

  10. marketing tips

    April 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Hi, everything is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s truly excellent, keep up writing.

  11. affiliate marketing online

    April 3, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Now I am going to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming over again to
    read additional news.

  12. model baju batik seragam kerja

    April 4, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and
    I find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back
    and aid others like you aided me.

  13. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 5, 2017 at 4:14 am

    It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this piece
    of writing as well as from our dialogue made here.

  14. Itamar Serpa Fernandes

    April 5, 2017 at 9:24 am

    It’s impressive that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from
    our dialogue made at this time.

  15. control firm

    April 5, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Hi, always i used to check weblog posts here in the early hours in the break
    of day, since i like to learn more and more.

  16. car computer exchange

    April 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

    That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  17. house-based office

    April 5, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you
    access consistently fast.

  18. Marylin

    April 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Hi there! Quick question that’s totally off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My blog looks weird when browsing from my iphone.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem.
    If you have any suggestions, please share.
    Many thanks!

  19. bum marketing forum

    April 5, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    If some one desires expert view regarding running a blog after that i propose him/her to pay a quick visit this weblog, Keep up the pleasant job.

  20. perform disk error

    April 6, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    It’s remarkable to go to see this web page and
    reading the views of all colleagues regarding this piece of writing, while I am also eager
    of getting know-how.

  21. different home security

    April 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    bookmarked!!, I like your blog!

  22. garbage collection

    April 6, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Hello my family member! I wish to say that this article is awesome, great written and include
    approximately all vital infos. I’d like to see extra posts like this
    .

  23. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 7, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I like the helpful information you provide in your
    articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and test once more right here regularly.
    I am moderately sure I’ll learn many new stuff right right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  24. Reginald

    April 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    magnificent issues altogether, you just received a new
    reader. What could you recommend in regards to your
    post that you simply made a few days ago? Any certain?

  25. Latashia

    April 8, 2017 at 3:22 am

    I all the time used to study piece of writing in news papers but now as
    I am a user of web so from now I am using net for content, thanks to
    web.

  26. desain baju batik

    April 9, 2017 at 2:18 am

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful information specially the last phase 🙂 I deal with such information much.
    I used to be seeking this particular info for a very lengthy time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  27. Jaunita

    April 9, 2017 at 2:28 am

    Why users still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe
    all is available on net?

  28. Alvin

    April 9, 2017 at 2:37 am

    It’s amazing to visit this site and reading the views of all colleagues regarding this paragraph, while I am also
    keen of getting know-how.

  29. Bernard

    April 9, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me.

    Anyhow, I’m certainly pleased I found it and I’ll be
    bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  30. Adalberto

    April 9, 2017 at 3:26 am

    Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?

    I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would enjoy your
    work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  31. Salvador

    April 9, 2017 at 3:50 am

    Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

  32. Izetta

    April 9, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Please let me know if you’re looking for
    a article writer for your weblog. You have some really great posts and
    I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load
    off, I’d really like to write some material
    for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested.

    Kudos!

  33. Norman

    April 9, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Good day very cool web site!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Amazing ..
    I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionally?

    I’m glad to search out so many useful information here in the submit, we’d
    like work out extra techniques on this regard, thank you for
    sharing. . . . . .

  34. Ruben

    April 9, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Hi there everyone, it’s my first pay a visit at this web
    page, and piece of writing is genuinely fruitful in favor of me, keep
    up posting these types of articles.

  35. Barrett

    April 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Great beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you
    amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog web site?
    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided shiny
    clear idea

  36. Sheldon

    April 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Wow, that’s what I was searching for, what a data! present here at
    this website, thanks admin of this site.

  37. model rok batik

    April 9, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this
    blog. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content by
    you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own blog now 😉

  38. Catherine

    April 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    This text is worth everyone’s attention. Where can I find out more?

  39. katalog baju

    April 9, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    I do not even know how I stopped up right here, however I thought this put
    up was great. I do not understand who you’re however certainly
    you are going to a well-known blogger in the event you aren’t already.

    Cheers!

  40. Larhonda

    April 10, 2017 at 1:51 am

    If you want to take much from this article then you have to apply such methods to your won webpage.

  41. Kayla

    April 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Howdy! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew
    where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m
    using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble
    finding one? Thanks a lot!

  42. Elisa

    April 10, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few
    of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think
    its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  43. Georges Sadala

    April 10, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for another excellent post. The place else could anybody get
    that kind of info in such an ideal method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I
    am at the look for such information.

  44. Georges Sadala

    April 11, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good work!

  45. Corina

    April 11, 2017 at 12:39 am

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
    site before but after reading through some of the post
    I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  46. Salina

    April 11, 2017 at 12:46 am

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  47. Mitchell

    April 11, 2017 at 1:53 am

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this
    site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be
    back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

  48. Elden

    April 11, 2017 at 2:10 am

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking a few minutes and
    actual effort to generate a superb article… but what can I say… I
    procrastinate a whole lot and don’t seem to get
    nearly anything done.

  49. Everette

    April 11, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Hey there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re utilizing?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different internet browsers and
    I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good internet hosting
    provider at a honest price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!

  50. Antonietta

    April 12, 2017 at 3:48 am

    I know this web site presents quality dependent content and additional stuff, is there any other web site which presents these kinds of stuff in quality?

  51. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 12, 2017 at 4:25 am

    My relatives all the time say that I am killing my time here
    at web, however I know I am getting experience daily by reading
    thes nice posts.

  52. Grace

    April 12, 2017 at 6:10 am

    I do accept as true with all the concepts you
    have presented to your post. They’re very convincing and will certainly work.

    Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?

    Thank you for the post.

  53. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.

    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?

  54. Yetta

    April 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Appreciate it!

  55. Kendra

    April 12, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get
    there! Thank you

  56. Becky

    April 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
    it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your
    intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  57. Rosario

    April 12, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Just want to say your article is as surprising.
    The clarity on your submit is just cool and i can think you’re a professional in this subject.
    Fine along with your permission let me to seize
    your feed to keep updated with drawing close post. Thanks 1,000,000 and
    please continue the enjoyable work.

  58. Sharyn

    April 13, 2017 at 1:38 am

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he in fact bought me dinner because I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah,
    thanks for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your website.

  59. Latashia

    April 13, 2017 at 3:36 am

    I have read so many articles about the blogger lovers but this post is really a good piece
    of writing, keep it up.

  60. Jermaine

    April 13, 2017 at 5:15 am

    Good day very nice web site!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful ..
    I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also?
    I am glad to find a lot of helpful info right here in the submit, we’d like develop more strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing.
    . . . . .

  61. Carmella

    April 13, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Very quickly this web page will be famous amid all blogging viewers, due to it’s good posts

  62. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this
    site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and visual appearance.
    I must say you have done a awesome job with this.
    In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for
    me on Chrome. Superb Blog!

  63. Lila

    April 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find
    things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of
    your ideas!!

  64. Egli Diana Pinto

    April 14, 2017 at 1:07 am

    Hurrah! At last I got a weblog from where I know how to truly
    obtain useful facts concerning my study and knowledge.

  65. rodent control

    April 14, 2017 at 3:35 am

    of course like your website but you have to check the
    spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling
    problems and I find it very bothersome to inform the
    truth nevertheless I’ll certainly come back again.

  66. security products

    April 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

    It’s difficult to find educated people in this
    particular subject, however, you sound like
    you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  67. Harriet

    April 14, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Howdy I am so glad I found your blog, I really found you by
    mistake, while I was searching on Digg for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would
    just like to say cheers for a tremendous post and a
    all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to
    read it all at the minute but I have saved it and
    also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I
    will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

  68. Irwin

    April 14, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is just nice and i can assume you
    are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS
    feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and
    please carry on the enjoyable work.

  69. Wonderful blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any discussion boards that
    cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really like to be a
    part of community where I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    Thank you!

  70. Muoi

    April 14, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    I know this website offers quality dependent articles and
    additional stuff, is there any other site which offers these data in quality?

  71. Consuelo

    April 15, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What
    host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  72. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 15, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Hello Dear, are you really visiting this web page daily,
    if so afterward you will without doubt obtain nice know-how.

  73. Lashunda

    April 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    We stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought
    I should check things out. I like what I see so
    i am just following you. Look forward to going over your web page again.

  74. weed control methods

    April 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people
    could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot
    of text for only having 1 or two pictures. Maybe
    you could space it out better?

  75. foto-583416

    April 15, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Good way of describing, and fastidious article to
    get data concerning my presentation topic, which i am going to present in academy.

  76. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 16, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my
    own weblog and was wondering what all is required
    to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

  77. Armando

    April 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I think the admin of this web page is actually working hard for his web page,
    because here every material is quality based material.

  78. Augusto de Arruda Botelho

    April 16, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this
    website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    kudos

  79. car computer exchange

    April 16, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after looking at many of the articles I
    realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

  80. Krystle

    April 17, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Greate article. Keep writing such kind of info on your site.
    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hi there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg it and individually suggest to my friends.
    I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Most Popular

To Top