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This Dark Dilemma

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

“Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated.” ~ Alveda King

   Although this is a dilemma that is occurring all throughout the world, I have catered this blog post specifically to India given the recent events that have transpired in this nation. I don’t intend to offend anyone, nor am I stating that my opinion is entirely right, and as always, I am open for a debate. And what is the debate you ask? Frankly, fair-skin versus dark-skin is only the beginning of it. It's the controversy of internal and external racism that is to a large extent cultivating its way across mindsets in our nation. But first, let me define the term “racism” for you. According to my Oxford dictionary, racism is the:

“Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

   And hence ‘internalised racism’ exists when community members are racist amongst their own cultural groups. And in India, both of these occurrences have happened. If you consider one case, in Greater Noida, Delhi, a group of African students – from Kenya and Nigeria specifically – have been brutally assaulted by Indian men as an act of racism earlier this year. Its horrifying, and for me personally, unimaginable that a country as supposedly developed as ours is showcasing such horrendous acts. Furthermore, being raised in Malawi, Southern Africa, for more than 18 years – I’m constantly facing the question of whether I’m more Indian or more multi-cultural given my upbringing. So what if it was me in Delhi? Just because I am “brown-skinned” and I look “Indian” I’d be okay? Well, there are different categories of “brown”, but I’m bringing that up a little further down.

   External racism isn’t the only kind that exists in India unfortunately. I recently saw an image that Indian politician Shashi Tharoor had posted up that depicts exactly what is the problem when it comes to this sort of prejudice.

Its in all forms. 

   Its the South Indians that hate the North Indians; the Keralites that say something about the Gujurathis – “they’re all misers”. Its the Punjabis that believe that all Madrasis – not the specific states from South India – are dark-skinned. The amount of times I have heard individuals describe characteristics about people in other communities is countless – and then there’s also the additional concern of the internal racism against individuals from the North East, such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipiur, Mizoram and Tripura – the Seven Sister States of India. They’re not Chinese, or Chinky, or easy – they’re Indians, same as you and I (if you, my dear reader, call yourself Indian). Yet more importantly, they’re human – definitely the same as you and I. Therefore I implore you  to consider this; where have these seeds of these stereotypes been planted from?

   Our history? Our society’s tête-à-tête’s behind closed doors? The misinformation that the media provides? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

  In India, the youth percentage population (15-24 years) falls to approximately 18% of the entire community (Index Mundi, 2015). These individuals are either moving outside of India or even just outside of their city into another state or region  – and following them is the trail of stereotypes that society expect them to adhere to. However, the reason its called a stereotype is because its an expansive and generalised defining aspect that caters to the ordinary community, not each and every single individual.

   There are also typecasts about individuals who have fair skin versus, well, other “less” important categories of brown.* The controversy of fair skin is a battle that has been facing the youth for over a long period of time. This battle has also empowered cosmetic companies such as Fair and Lovely to be one of the most sought after beauty products in order to make our skins more milky white – because as all the advertisements portray, the only way you’re going to get married or get a job, is to be fair-skinned, right? However you and I both know that’s not true. Compatibility between two people and working damn hard at what you do isn’t determined by your skin colour.


Before the use of “Fair and Lovely” – a fair-skin enhancing cosmetic cream – and after. What a difference! In all actuality though, the photo has just been edited, and was taken 10 minutes apart.

   I’m still figuring out why being dark-skinned is considered to be a curse, whether you’re Indian or not. If you have a happy and healthy child, educate them, impart your wisdom so that they grow to be virtuous and considerate, and hard-working too! That’s more important than their skin colour. And this applies to both female and men; I may be a feminist but I do know that this issue does apply to both genders. Hence, don’t you think its time we lift the dark-skin curse and embrace ourselves for who we are instead?

   However is this such an ideal scenario? I’m actually curious to know, our world is rapidly developing, in our technology, our social media campaigns and our education systems. Yet… Does this issue of dark-skin still exist? Unfortunately I do believe it does. At family weddings the first thing I almost certainly will always hear is the skin colour of the bride and groom; then follows the topic of ‘how much gold is she wearing?’

Ladies and gentlemen, I think its high time we stop hiding ourselves behind the boundaries that the cosmetic industry and society have put in place. Don’t you?

   I’m well aware that this argument has been debated over and over again through social media, and perhaps even in household gatherings and discussions – so what makes this discourse of mine different? Its simple really. I’m not telling you to make a stampede of this and change everyone’s minds – that’s too challenging in a country as overpopulated as ours. Yet you alone, as an individual, can make a difference. We, as a small community who believe that this is true; we need to determine what the root cause of this mindset is, and then move forward. Don’t judge so hastily; and really consider if what you’re saying is going to make an impact to the actual scenario – because as you let those words spill out of your mouth, you’re further allowing this lamentable trend to only continue. Say something nice instead; an act of kindness can go a long way. 🙂

* I went into a matrimony site to determine what exactly are the different categories of brown – for those who are used to this (I’m not!) this may not be a surprise. Nonetheless, here are the following five complexions of skin colour in India: 

  1. Very fair

  2. Fair

  3. Wheatish

  4. Wheatish Brown

  5. Dark

Side debate – without a colour (brown?) scale and everything being relative to the human eye, how do you determine the actual complexion? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. 🙂

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