Just when I was finalizing this write-up, I realized it is being published on Independence Day. Independence. Setting free. Physically, it has been seventy years. Mentally, a long way to go. A long way for a country obsessed with fair skin.
Why fair is considered better in India? We associate fair skin with beauty. Dusky or dark skin, which we are naturally blessed with, is seen lowly in this part of our world when the other half is dying to get a tanned skin. Bizarre!
Till date, a fair girl is deemed more eligible for marriage. It is so deep rooted in our society that most of the times it fails to see beyond the skin color. We might be literate but not educated for education liberates us from our prejudices. I say so because no matter how qualified we are, we show that still there is a long way for us to go before awareness percolates down to every strata of our society in its true sense.
What made me write about this issue is when I evidenced a child falling prey to this ugly trait of our society. Children with dark skin are bullied and are made to feel awful about themselves by their peers. A 5 year old refusing to go to school unless she is made to look fairer, read – beautiful and acceptable, using makeup! It is difficult to gauge the amount of pain this little child is going through, wounded self respect and confidence. Affronted by peers, little ones again, for color is beyond comprehension!! I wonder what kind of educated parents and families in today’s times these children hail from. Definitely children cannot be blamed for this. It is their families and parents who sow such discriminating ideology and hostility in these tender minds. India is developing in so many ways but what about its people. Somehow we are stuck somewhere, minds harnessed back to the colonial times.
Do not make your own children’s life miserable by planting such racist ideas. What difference their acquired thinking would do to others’ lives is another story. It is no worse than planting weeds and worms in your own crop! Promoting fair and devaluing dark skin is not less synonymous to living with an ingrown disease. I am not fair. Have never wanted to be. I was blessed to have a bunch of friends to whom color did not matter and it never featured as a topic of discussion in the family as well.
God forbid but just think what would people, for whom color, beauty and appearance are the most important parameters, do if something happens which might change their appearance? Would not they be shattered? What would give them strength at that time to fight the odds of life? It is the teaching that they have got as to what is more important in life. Their strength, individuality, their will and determination, hard work, feeling confident about themselves irrespective of their looks is what will help sail them through!
Most of the times, we do not even realize how we indirectly promote fair and devalue dark in our homes, schools, colleges, work places. Subconsciously, we say things in front of our kids which makes them associate fair skin with beauty. Mocking others for physical attributes is not what a responsible and sincere parent would want to teach. We all should exercise wisdom while discussing sensitive issues when children are an audience.
Just recently, I was having a walk in the evening with a friend of mine, a beautiful person inside and out, always there to help, a kind one would love to hang out with – who happens to have a dusky complexion. She was upset that she is time and again cursed by her in-laws for her color and more so that her son has also got her dusky tone instead of his father’s fair! Does the color of a person actually matter? Isn’t it like I have two eyes, two hands and two legs, you have two eyes, two hands and two legs. Shape and size varies and so does the bloody color! Isn’t it that simple?!
This is for all those people who think fair is superior. What do you think about APJ Abdul Kalam, Vanessa Williams, Serena Williams, A.R. Rehman, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Shakira or Mohammad Ali? Pink-tinted, huh? What makes these insanely successful, powerful DARK people known worldwide? It is their hard work, talent, perseverance, strength and their attitude towards life!
Feel free to be glad of your child’s white skin but teach them to respect others as well regardless of their color. Don’t become a contributor in tarnishing a child’s confidence and self respect for life. Adults can handle this though they are also not free of its effects but here we are talking about little innocent children whose identities are bruised for life!
There is one more aspect to this, responsible advertising. There are a number of companies selling fairness creams in the name of making one fair and beautiful! The problem is not with the creams or their sellers, but yes the way they are marketed is discriminating and demeaning. Most of the TV commercials emphasize the fact that the fairer the skin, the more successful you are. They portray a dark person as depressed, unsuccessful, under confident, ignored by others and soon after applying the cream becomes fair and as a consequence successful, attractive and is loved and respected by others.
Two fold side effects of these advertisements:
Effect on a dark person watching this commercial –
1. I have lesser worth than a fair skin one.
2. I must become fair to be happy, successful and be socially acceptable.
Effect on a fair person –
1. I am superior because I am fair and the darker ones are inferior.
2. I have all the rights to make the dark people feel inferior.
These corporate houses do owe some contribution towards the society. Creating any kind of discrimination among the people and making them feel humiliated is least expected of them. These fairness creams have been successful in India because they know how powerful a concept fair skin is in our culture. Hindustan Unilever’s Fair and Lovely is sold in thirty countries across the globe with their major customer base, no prizes for guessing, Indian community! How obsessed we are with fair skin!
There is a lesson to be learnt from Ghana. It has banned all the fairness products effective from August this year claiming they contain bleaching agents such as hydroquinone, mercury and clobetasol causing cancer and several other toxicities throughout the body, already banned in Japan, Europe, US, Australia and Canada. I wish India followed suit!
Hypocrisy – we are setting benchmarks! When we adore Baal Gopal, worship Krishna, Shiva and Kali Ma and find dark-skinned individual not beautiful. There is so much literature in our culture, old and new that represents dark skin as something that is sensual and beautiful, also the case with mythology and art, then why such obsession with white. Remember the clichéd ‘tall, dark and handsome’? Why this bias more so against women?
Dark, fair, dusky, wheatish are mere descriptive words, defining one’s physical attributes, not associated with assessing beauty in anyway. What is not fair is discrimination.
Things are changing for sure. And people as well. But a lot has to be done. We have to do it. In our minds. Indian skin is beautiful, the way it is. Feel beautiful the way you are. You are the one of a kind creation of the Almighty. You have to realize that you are blessed with something unique like no other. And he made nobody perfect. Just stop comparing and complaining. Try to find miracles in small things. Celebrate this little word called Life!!