India is obsessed with fair skin. We might tell ourselves these biases don’t exist in modern India, but my daily experiences tell me otherwise. Dark skin is seen as something to be ashamed of.
For as long as I can remember, people have asked, commented and advised about my dark skin, and not always in a nice, endearing way: “Why are you so dark?” “Were you always like this?” “Do you spend a lot of time in the sun?” “Are you from Africa?” (As if that’s a bad thing).
Everyone becomes an expert somehow when it comes to this matter. They have the weirdest solutions to “get rid” of my dark complexion. “You should probably stop drinking so much tea – it burns your skin.” “Volleyball? Really? Do you want to get darker?” “You should try drinking two glasses of milk a day.” Talk about unwanted advice!
Ironically, several of these people weren’t making fun – they genuinely wanted to help me, and that’s the saddest part. Most of us have been conditioned to equating fair skin with beauty.
Everyone around us endorses and celebrates fair skin. Skin-whitening ads are as bizarre as they are numerous. Take the one in which a woman journalist tries to get an interview with a politician but is unable to stand out in the crowd. And then – well, you know how it goes – she applies the product, and – voila! – She gets the interview and becomes a star.
Saying that fair skin is beautiful is one thing, but saying that fair skin is what gets you a job and not your skill, talent or hard work is downright discrimination. Although, I suppose it’s true for jobs in Bollywood. Almost every actor in Bollywood is fair-skinned, but whether they have the talent or not is up for debate. It is so bad that when we do see a dark skinned lead in an Indian film, we find it odd.
The prejudice is so deeply ingrained it seems impossible to root it out. We owe it to ourselves to make this right. So don’t just sit back – stand up, say something, do something. At least then you’ll be able to say you made this world a “fairer” place!!