Color Discrimination Isn't Just an American Thing

Informative Article


Feeling like an outsider because of your skin color is something that in hindsight seems so frivolous. However, it is a very prevalent issue that many face around the world and often goes unnoticed.


by Thejo Akkoor

The rise of movements like Black Lives Matter have brought attention to the racial biases against many people of color. Historically, individuals with darker skin tones tend to be seen as ‘barbaric’ and are immediate targets for law enforcement officials. In fact, some privileged individuals who have lighter skin turn a blind eye to this daily struggle. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center on how severe the effects of slavery are on black people today in the US, a starking 84% of black people affirmed this fact, compared to just 58% of white individuals. Clearly, the United States has been at the heart of this heated battle. However, it is crucial to examine the racism and colorism that plague the entire world.


Feeling like an outsider because of your skin color is something that in hindsight seems so frivolous. Nevertheless, it is universal. People of the same skin color tend to stick together. In a group of a white, brown, and black person, psychologically, you would tend to feel the most comfortable with someone who resembles or identifies with the same cultural background as you. This idea actually starts from a very young age- we tend to bond easier with people who share similar things.


The problem with this ideology is having a bad opinion towards individuals of any other color or race. Specifically around the world, colorism is a prevalent issue. Though people tend to group colorism and racism together, they are actually two separate ideas. As a Time Article puts it, “a person’s skin color is an irrefutable visual fact that is impossible to hide, whereas race is a constructed, quasi-scientific classification that is often only visible on a government form”. A person’s skin color is one of the only things that can immediately lead you to make assumptions. Though a person might identify as a different race entirely, they are put in a box by this one aspect. Even among the same races, lighter-skinned individuals are often considered to be more successful and superior to their darker companions. Discrimination by skin-tone is in fact prevalent across the world, proving to be just as bad as racism itself.


India’s ‘Fair equals Beautiful’ Ideology


In India, beauty is heavily judged by the fairness of a person’s skin. Girls are considered lucky to be married if their skin is dark. Aunts, grandmothers, and even mothers encourage children to use these products. Many people have spoken out about these atrocious ideals, but what is the source of this twisted logic? India as a nation has endured the colonization of the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Mughals, and the British in each of their collective periods. As a result, the idea of ‘fair equals powerful’ was deeply rooted into their cultural and traditional values. In a study conducted by the National Interest from 2013-2016, it was found that 70% of 300 women and men surveyed wanted to be in a relationship with someone who had light skin. It is this inherent belief that a person of darker skin is automatically inferior to those with lighter skin tones that pushes many to conform to the ‘bleaching syndrome’, or the deep-set belief that fair skin is more powerful and attractive.


The ever-popular bleaching cream, ‘Fair & Lovely’ has taken its toll on Indian women (and even men). Though it has been indirectly banned in India, this market has made around $400 million annually. These chemicalized products can cause skin cancer, liver damage, and even some types of poisoning. However, mothers still conform to giving their daughters this deadly cream. According to Indian Beautician Rashnaa Mehta, mothers often ask her to lighten the skins of their daughters. She always pushes for beauty and confidence within their natural skin colors, but has found that people are persistent. Even Indian matrimonial site Shaadi.com, has found that fair skin is a key factor for matching individuals. And, it also doesn’t help that Indian actors and actresses have endorsed skin lightening products in the past, continually influencing their fans with this twisted logic.


Though skin-lightening products have plagued the past, activist groups are now speaking out against them. The organization Women of Worth and their campaign Dark Is Beautiful are crusaders in the fight against colorism. Nina Davuluri is an Indian-American and former Miss America, and she also happens to have dark skin. Many people have criticized her win, saying that she would not have won in India. However, these discriminatory comments have proved to be exactly what Davuluri was trying to achieve through winning the title. She wanted people to talk about dark skin vs. light skin, and hopefully spread the word about the severity of this problem.


With the death of George Floyd and the call to action in terms of racism, Unilever, the owner of the former brand Fair & Lovely, was immediately targeted for promoting racist attitudes. According to the New York Times, they responded by saying they would remove any labels including the words, ‘fair’, ‘white’, and ‘light’. Shaadi.com was also targeted with demands to remove the skin tone filter on their website. Activists say that these demands are a step in the right direction.


But it’s not just India that promotes fair skin over darker skin. Many countries in Asia and Africa have seen ‘skin-whitening’ industries booming. A woman in Taiwan compulsively carries an umbrella around with her wherever she goes. She says this is to evade getting skin cancer, b