Pakistan’s Consistent Problem with Colorism

India, Pakistan, and later on Bangladesh are still experiencing heavy effects of colonialism nearly 70 years later. From the loss of language to massacres to multiple partitions, lingering effects can be felt throughout the region. The most recent evidence for this occurred in Pakistan.

One of the most popular morning shows called Jago Pakistan consisted of not only blackface but multiple uses of the n-word and it’s variations as well as reiterating desi culture’s obsession with fair skin. The whole segment which was over an hour long was filled with toxic comments that implied that fair skin is beautiful yet darker skin is not.

The three hosts, who were fair themselves, made disparaging comments towards darker skin multiple times. The segment had around 10 makeup artists on the stage competing to see who can make dark skin look beautiful. All the makeup artists were told to use the same shade of foundation, which was horrifically named the n-word. On top of that, the hosts used the n-word to describe how dark the skin should be. The women kept repeating that it is a very tough job to beautify dark skin and most makeup artists flat out said it’s not possible.

The whole premise of the show was demeaning and yet not one person thought something is wrong here between the backstage crew, the three hosts, the live audience, the models, and the makeup artists.

It was baffling how casually the hosts were making these comments and how unbothered the audience was. Pakistan’s authority that regulates media, PEMRA, did not take any action and the backlash was very little. The only backlash was on Twitter and other social media networks and was largely ignored by news channels.

A brand called Fair and Lovely whose whole premise is based on being fairer is very commonly used in India and Pakistan while using lemons and other ingredients are applied not to deal with acne, but simply to make skin fairer. Whitening filters are regularly applied in dramas. In fact, some makeup artists who received their makeup education in Pakistan do not even carry darker shades of foundation. Makeup courses in Pakistan are designed with only fair skin in mind. The obsession with fair skin is a very real and common issue in not just India and Pakistan, but also other Asian countries as well.

This begs the question: Why is darker skin considered so bad in these countries? A major reason is colonialism which has warped these countries by pushing European beauty standards. Another cause of this is lack of representation in the media. While India is a bit more progressive and has allowed darker skinned actresses like Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone to prosper in the industry, Pakistan and Bangladesh are still behind. Beauty standards in these countries are still heavily based on Caucasian beauty standards.

The backlash, although limited, can be seen in these tweets.

This user is one of the few to remind people as Pakistanis continue to ignore this horrifying act of racism and colorism.

Thankfully, the black community is getting more representation in the mainstream media. Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time are two very important movies and have a long-lasting positive impact. Perhaps, diversity and representation can reduce the deep-running issues colonialism has incurred on Asian, Hispanic, and African countries.

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