Colourism and racism: The Indian variant of colourism doesn't automatically  gatecrash into “Black Lives Matter”

If you don’t know what colourism is, let me get you up to speed. Colourism in simple terms is the glorification of a certain skin colour over others. This can be done by members in and outside of the community where the skin colour is prevalent. This glorification sets standards for ideal beauty and socioeconomic opportunities in their society.

From Harlequin to Mills&Boon to American romcoms, we’ve been consistently choked with a certain beauty standard, whether we realise it or not. The fair and white-skinned ideal beauty has been shoved down our throats over many generations and passed down until we’re where we are today. It’s everywhere like the Corona pandemic, entrenched deep into our language, culture and everyday life.

Skin bleaching and outrightly offensive beauty product adverts among other things have been so scarily normalised in our society. Many Africans including Nigerians like to delude themselves about this endemic problem. Saying things like, “We have more issues to worry about”, “we’re not like Black Americans/Europeans who see racism in everything” while we literally worship biracial individuals in our own communities, for one reason only.

Like frogs in a well, our vision can be limited to our immediate environment but it doesn’t disprove the existence of others. Due to the situation of our nation, a larger number of frogs keep exiting the well in search of greener pastures. In new environments, you either become an ally or a hindrance based on your past experiences. “I can find light-skinned people more beautiful and that doesn’t mean I have a colour bias”. Oh yeah? Alrighty. For clarity’s sake though, Let’s go through the points below and re-examine our bias:

1. Do you love yourself?
Let’s start with the heavy stuff, shall we? How important is self-love to you? What does self-love even mean to you? Does it include the love of your skin?

2. Diversify
Do a quick survey of practices related to colour in other nations. Do you know white people in the western world tan to look darker because it’s seen as a sign of riches and exoticness? Do you know darker-skinned people in South East Asia find it hard to get jobs because of their colour and are forced to undergo skin lightening medical procedures? Do you know about systemic racism faced by people all over the world due to their skin complexion?

3. Question your biases
Compare and contrast with the practices in your country. ” Dark-skinned girls get more beautiful the lighter they are photoshopped”; “light-skinned girls are nicer and kinder than dark-skinned girls”; “men like lighter skin”; “if I’m not black and shine, I’d rather be yellow caramel”. Yeah, you need to stop stereotyping.

4. Expose yourself
Surround yourself with diversity. From your internet feed, to what you read and content you consume; consciously explore other cultures. Apart from fixing your colourism, it broadens your mind in general. Take note to avoid switching to another race entirely (Kdrama, Bollywood, Anime only gang yeah you; Spanish, Turkish serialists yeah you too). You might just end up worse than a colourist by having a race fetish, oops!

5. Learn about the history and stories of people with your skin colour across the globe
Why are you darker skinned by other people? What features are common to people that look like you? From TV shows to movies, to documentaries; explore contents that showcase the lives of people that look like you. Understand why you must be confident and proud of how you look. Understand that a lot of people will find you beautiful. Understand that you’re not less.

The effects of these little tweaks on your life cannot be overemphasized. Your eyes will open to the beautiful colours of the world. You will begin to notice features that make whoever you come across unique and beautiful instead of features they could improve on. Your idea of beauty standards will expand and will not be downsized by the ideals of the society you live in. Overall, you might even become a better human and ally for others in the society.

PS: In recent times, due to celebrities like Beverly Naya, Beverly Osu, etc. and Beyoncé’s Brown Skin Girl celebrating dark-skinned beauty, it seems to be in trend. This goes to show that this life is a pot of beans, the heat will reach everywhere eventually.

Sa’eedah Hussein
Preclinical Press