Updated: Sep 30, 2020
It's 2020. We live in an incredible world where it's possible to travel around the globe in less than 24 hours, transplant human hearts, and essentially give new life while also being able to obtain an answer to any question with just a few taps of our fingers. Yet we still can't get past the idea of skin tone being simply that- skin tone.
In a time where the Black Lives Matter movement is in full swing and individuals of all races and complexions are fighting for the equality and justice of Black individuals, I believe this is the perfect time for us as individuals from the Indian Sub-Continent (ISC's) to reflect on our own attitudes to not just a specific race but skin tone. Now please don't get me wrong, the BLM movement is something we should all be apart of, and Im not trying to downplay its importance. Instead, im trying to discuss the fact that we as ISC's cannot truly be supportive if we don't understand the implications of skin tone in our own culture.
As an ISC woman, I always thought that my family and friends were above this idea that having light skin somehow made us superior. There was never any talk of using fair and lovely or being forced to stay indoors in fear of the sun darkening my skin in my household. In fact, my mother and I would scoff at the skincare ads that lined the streets, claiming to make a beautiful brown women the color of eggshells. We would furrow our brows with fear every time we saw a news article of a young woman going to extreme and often life-threatening measures to bleach her skin. Yet even while seemingly dismissing this idea of the need for fair skin, I still hated it when my brother and I would come back from the pool three shades darker, and someone or another would comment that we'd become "Kali," (dark). It was never meant to be malicious and usually said with a smile and a laugh, but that doesn't mean it didn't affect how I saw myself whether I realized it or not. See, I am an individual with a lighter complexion, and I pride myself on the fact that I truly believe that our hue doesn't differentiate us. But as reluctant as I am to say it still to this day, I feel a twinge of embarrassment when someone comments on the fact that I got darker- and that's a problem.
As ISC's, regardless of what we believe, we have been trained by society to think that darker is somehow lesser. Even those of us like me who truly don't believe in that ridiculous concept have to work every day to retrain our brains and fight against that initial instinct.
A few years ago, I decided it was time to tell my parents about my boyfriend- now even though they are very open-minded and liberal individuals, it's a scary concept. I mean, you are about to introduce a person that has become important to you to your family and are hoping that they see them for the great person they are. So I got on the call shaking just a little, and when they answered, I realized they weren't alone and instead at a get-together. At that point, I just needed to get it over and done with, so I thought what the hell and went ahead and told them anyway. Their reaction was great; they asked about his name, age, major, and where he was from. Pretty basic, right? Yet, when I answered and said he was Maharashtrian, I heard someone laughing in the background because they thought he was going to be darker than me. In actuality, he is not, but I was shocked at this idea that that was even a consideration. Here I was thinking some aunty would say something about me focusing on school or the fact that my parents hadn't found him for me (typical conservative aunty shit). Instead, their biggest concern was the color of his skin. My parents immediately waved them off, but I will never forget it as it was the moment I realized just how important skin color is to so many ISC's.
I want it to make it clear that im not writing this post to accuse anybody of anything, and im not doing it to make anyone feel bad either. I am doing it because I think it's important for us as ISC's to reflect on our own experiences and understand how they affect our views and reactions and thus how we can change them. Im not perfect either, but I will fight every day to remove this stigma that society has taught me from my mind. At the end of the day, your complexion is just a matter of pigment- it has nothing to do with who you are or how much you are worth, and I think its time that we fight to showcase that, so future generations don't have to retrain themselves. It simply won't be a question.