Opinion | Race & Reckoning: India was a Symbol of Hope in the World. Now her Creviced Stories have Come to be a Symbol of all that is Being Corroded.
There is poor understanding of how white privilege operates outside the U.S. and Europe. In fact, there is a danger in placing American race-based oppression at the center of global discussions on white supremacy. Let’s be explicit: racial oppression in the U.S. is the tip of the iceberg of a much deeper and more harmful global phenomenon of white privilege that has for too long been conveniently ignored.
For decades, women and men around the world, and even more so in India, have been distinguished, based on superficiality of secondary attributes, pivotally, the color of one’s skin. While this discriminatory, racist bickering threatens to eclipse the self-esteem of all the genders along with pushing them into a state of self-doubt, it seems to be affecting and being more prevalent amongst women.
As the women’s beauty industry boomed, so did the negative stereotypes around women of color, clamped up with its role of defining what beauty truly means. More often than not, having a lighter skin tone began to be denigrated as a ‘frivolous’ and ‘feminine’ pursuit, while the callousness and Prejudice against the dark, resulted in belittling the belonging race in disdain.
Beauty in India is inextricable with fairness. Over and over again, our television screens, magazines, and social media feeds are bombarded with ads, ingeminating the fact that if we’re not fair-skinned, we’re going to have a wretched life. This obsession is actually subliminal conditioning over centuries and its roots trace back from the colonial rule to foreign invaders and conquerors, to archaic family traditions, subtly or not so subtly propagating the idea and leading to the systemic belief that fair skin is deemed to be superior than otherwise. Putting into place the cycle of White supremacy which has hitherto created a room for inferiority complex in the thick of innate eumelanin heightened dark Indians through the means of the pernicious demanding matrimonial websites, immense conservative family pressure, and some of India’s biggest celebrities endorsing and validating the use of these skin lightening products and injecting in our subconscious what’s often cited as ‘Systemic Racism’, who instead of reckoning it as just a mark of their geographical radix and dwelling in their evermore diversity, discern it as a malison to get rid of in impulsiveness.
And India has gone from being the melting pot of a diverse populace and preacher of acceptance for the world to envy to a last remaining society menacing to unravel the ideals it once embodied. Racism is a global inferno, if you hose only one part of it, the rest will keep burning. In India, where this is an eternal indispensable vogue, the hose isn’t even turned on yet.
Not only it is horrifying to see how unjust roads of Racism have become a quagmire drenched in marginalization, inequality, violence and abject inhumanity, but also to behold how blatant racism existing in our society, has been normalized in our day-to-day life, ranging from simply loathing a darkly pigmented colleague to constantly nudging young girls to undergo homely remedies to make the skin look spuriously ‘acceptable’, a way that society expects them to look.
Women have reported that just by lighting their skin by two shades, they experience higher levels of confidence. All this adds up to an individual and cultural obsession with fair skin that becomes a distinguishing part of a person's beauty and social work. It's the one aspect of our social status that we think we can easily change when it comes to our place in the world. But here's the thing- no amount of healthy, genuine or skin lightening creams can actually lighten the color of our skin. So instead of buying into this myth and continuing to perpetuate it, maybe it's time to reject this discriminatory thinking altogether. And this rejection goes beyond dropping the ‘fair’ in fairness creams, or boldly claiming that dark is beautiful. It means attacking the social conditioning that tells us colorism is a “natural preference” and not a systemic bias.