The internet algorithms seem to work mysteriously for those of us who don’t understand it. The recent Black Lives Matter Protest opened not only America’s but also the entire world’s eyes about the new face of racism. These protests trickled down and made their way to India, authorities were questioned, stories- new and old were presented and change was demanded. The revolution in America against racism woke us up, for good or for bad, I am not sure, but it woke us up from the ignorance and darkness of our old ways.
While on one hand, The Indian audience’s brutal reaction to African students made waves, on the other, the internalized bias towards dark skin and obsession with fair skin was scrutinized. This scrutiny forced Unilever to drop ‘fair’ from its profitable ‘fair and lovely’ cream that has been banking on women’s insecurities since generations. This change was celebrated in some cases while others demanded the rationale behind it. I am one among many, trying to understand whether the mere dropping of a word from the title of a product is going to help the masses unlearn the years of stereotypical standards of beauty that they adhere to?
For how long are we going to throw all our wrongdoings on a colonial hangover and bleach ourselves white to death in the memory of Queen Elizabeth the first?
Is the whitening cream ever going to help us, the so-called ‘dark-skinned’ who are deemed to be moderately beautiful just because they have good features? How are we supposed to forget the years of trauma that we have been through so much that it chokes us up and fills our eyes even today?
There are a lot of things where change needs to be sought. For, these biases have reached too far. They have a hold everywhere we go. In 2008, a hundred or more tribal girls were sponsored by the state for attending training for being prospective flight attendants. Out of the lot, only eight were chosen, that too as ground staff. Racism, more specifically, colorism was blatantly stated as one of the reasons for rejection. Marriage, career, family, education, and all other relevant spheres have this sentiment ingrained within their conscience. It is not even shocking to know that, in extreme cases, this mentality has claimed the lives of young women in India.
The understanding that our skin color dictates our lives is faulty but for some of us, it is a reality. Our struggles have been weird because the ruthless demarcation has given us the freedom to defy the rules and at the same time, our successes have never been mentioned without the tone of our color.
The half a billion worth bleaching and skin whitening cream industry is just the tip of the iceberg, the capitalistic side of it, the roots of it too deep, in our household, in the ‘remedies’ that our grandma’s kitchen dictated, the turmeric and the besan, the talcum powders, and every other thing that was rubbed on our faces.
The cure is not simple. It cannot be laid down in steps and followed. The cause needs to be understood and felt, the illusory line of difference should be discarded and a new space for abundant care, love, and acceptance should be created. For only when this happens, that every newborn would know what it feels to own one’s skin and would know to accept oneself without any conditions.