In All Fairness, Are YOU Bothered By Your Skin Colour?

  • Ujwala Thirumurthy
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  • Weekend Reads
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  • 09 Apr 2017

As a kid, do you remember your mum telling you not to play out on the streets on a sunny day, because, “You’ll become dark”? Do you remember her worrying about your skin colour if you were out swimming on an exceptionally hot day? In essence, we’ve been conditioned to believe that a lighter/fairer tone is directly proportionate to our success. “See that girl, so fair and nice she looks…if you didn’t play outdoors so much you would also be like her” – a common comparison that Indian mothers play out so often. 

Is there any truth behind this? No!

We are, essentially, a brown-skinned nation that seeks to revel in all things “fairer”.  Ironical?

From the time we’re born, we are judged by the colour of our skin, and are reminded of it at every critical juncture – be it getting a part in a play in school, or getting a job, or looking gorgeous (read fair and lovely) for our wedding.

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We spoke to Kochi-based bridal make-up artist Priya Abhishek Joseph who’s currently making news for her unapologetic views about #darkisbeautiful and #unfairandlovely. Her beautiful makeup does not attempt to achieve lighter/fairer skin, but enhance a bride’s glow, regardless of her colour.

 “When a bride approaches me, the first thing I tell her is ‘I will maintain your skin tone as is, whether light or dark'. Although I'm very vocal about my opinion on the matter, I still have some brides requesting that their skin tone be lightened, with a view to appease the extended family. It will take a while for us to embrace a more inclusive idea of beauty", she says.

"But, all is not bad," she adds, "because there is a rising trend in brown-skinned models being featured on magazine covers, like Elle, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and photo shoots for events, implying a more inclusive portrayal of women's beauty in India, where a large percentage of people are in the brown spectrum of skin colour".  

 Colour me cynical

The Preamble to the Indian Constitution (formed in 1950) lists Four Cardinal Objectives which are to be “secured by the State for all its citizens”.

One of them is Justice - Social Justice. Social Justice means the absence of socially privileged classes in society and no discrimination against any citizen on grounds of caste, creed, colour, religion, sex, or place of birth.

Read that? No discrimination. On whatever it may be based, discrimination in any form is unacceptable by law.

And here we are, 67 years later questioning a fellow human being's very existence by terming them white or dark-skinned. While we go about glorifying whiteness, we also blatantly humiliate those with darker skin. We seem to have trouble accepting and acknowledging that we are predominantly a brown-skinned country, and that this is how we are born. Regardless of the caste system that exists in certain strata of the society, which determines wealth, wisdom or beauty, the unfortunate emergence of this dull and rather cynical variant of social injustice is absolutely shocking.

Let's unlearn

It not only translates into racial discrimination, it is also proof that we are now giving in to something that the world has been fighting for centuries! Discrimination based on skin colour is arguably the most humiliating, especially when it targets our youth, whom we presume are escalatingly educated and intelligent. 

Since when did we start believing that the colour of our skin directly reflected our personalities or capabilities?

Since when did we start believing that being fairer-skinned will get us that perfect job,  or a suitable life partner, or even a "cool' circle of friends? 

We need to unlearn this concept. We need to start believing that we are just as good as anyone else. 

EVERYONE has an equal right to a job, to a life partner, and to live their own lives.

You Are As Good As You Think You Are

The problem lies within 

But, interestingly, such an assertion about the existence of this type of racial discrimination is hardly ever taken seriously. Our immediate response is to either remain silent and choose to ignore it, or reject it, fiercely!

We fail to address the elephant in the room and believe it to be a phenomenon that exists only in other countries, particularly western ones, and view ourselves as its hapless victims. 

We vehemently oppose racist behaviour against our people in a foreign land, but we do not realize that we, as a nation, harbour extremely racist attitudes within our own society.

Time for damage control

Dealing with this parallel scenario of "white is better" is a video that went viral on social media when it was posted on Facebook by Voice of Ram - #Let's Uncolour - run by Ram Subramanian. It takes a direct dig at the blatant publicity and sale of a particularly infamous fairness cream that has been around in our country for ages. In three minutes, he addresses: 

  • the social stigma created by beauty products that have ingrained in our minds that FAIR means LOVELY
  • the inability of political leaders to ban such endorsements
  • the basic naivety that has made this "Brown Republic of ours" to believe that we need to get fair skin to be able to scale the ladder of success .

With over 2 million views and 60,000 shares, it is proof that we understand the problem and acknowledge it as well, but what we really need is action, not just words.


Although we may dismiss it as a problem that is faced only by an unfortunate few, it is an issue that has been bubbling under the surface, creating ripples that will soon reverberate in future generations. Let's stop pretending and turning a blind eye to this inane form of discrimination. Let's create a better future for our children; not one that's stained with racist beliefs.

So long as we keep feeding this bug, there will be millions of silent deaths every second – of someone's self-esteem, respect, and individuality.

 We are a peace-loving country. If we can be secular and co-exist with people of different religions, if we can be democratic and enjoy the freedom to elect our own national leaders, why is it seemingly difficult to co-exist with people of a different skin color than our own; why is it hard to be accountable for our own actions of racism (no matter how small) while we look down upon other nations doing the same.

Let's not turn our republic country into a hypocritical one.

Let's act according to what we believe in and what we stand for.

Let's not judge a person's character by the colour of their skin.

Let's get real, and start treating each other with the respect that we deserve.


Black, brown, sepia, yellow, wheat or white – WHO CARES?



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