Be it the slenderest racist jokes by peers or the matrimonial ads, racism in 21st century in India is not new and not a thing has changed even if just a part of the modern generation claims to advocate against it. We often take a general view of this obsession with fairness and lead on to profess that the urban people have now shut doors to discriminations as this. But the truth is, the only minor noteworthy difference that has been observed around the discussion over fascination with fair skin is that such a topic has been finally measured worthy of a debate which has been getting special treatment by some of the well-known activists lately. Racism in India dates back to the era of our caste system where the dalits or ‘untouchables’ were way darker than the higher castes.
Darkness since then has been treated as a disorder which necessitates immediate attention for remedy. Advertising industry has been quick to cash in on such obsession as we witness how Unilever launched Fair & Lovely cream in 1978. These not only flagged the way for Indians to approach the shortest escape route from discernment and try to fit in the falsely designed standards by the ‘superiors’ but also fueled up other commercials to introduce some akin bleaching creams, including vaginal washes that assert to fade the surrounding area. The biggest problem of introduction of these products is that they spread the image of women being disempowered like a virus and embolden the impression that fairness is the most important feature of beauty. The fanaticism has reached to such extent that in 2005, Emami (a cosmetic company) launched Fair & Handsome for men. Pathetically these ads are endorsed by popular Bollywood stars and cricket players whom people venerate.
There are causal factors like looking at western attributes through rose-colored glasses. We are so convivial to people of foreign origin; not that it is wrong but then it is depressing to witness the lack of such equal passion when it comes to brown people. We cry on being targets to such bigotry by foreigners yet maligning our own people is pretty basic to us. This exposes the elevated point of chauvinism amongst our own people. Ironically, there is a noticeable surge in the demand for tanned skin among people in the West as they prefer the former over their pale skins.
People practicing this as a joke (even that turns into a habit when it’s repeated) fail to contemplate the aftermaths it could have on the victims as they fall prey to the biting reality of poor self-esteem, feeling outcast, unattractive and the least useful. Problem is, the psychological impact is too deep to be overcome in decades or in a lifetime. The good news is, film star Nandita Das has stood up against this fad and delivered her full backing to the campaign ‘Dark is Beautiful’ which aims to deracinate the relation of beauty with fairness. The actress has condemned the tag of ‘dusky’ and has disowned the idea of being categorized just because she was born with something she has no control over. Her campaign ‘Stay Unfair, Stay Beautiful’ has successfully experienced an overwhelming response from people in India. This proves that there exists a part of the population that has the potential to think differently; or maybe it’s not different at all, after all dark is natural and it is the humblest truth. I am sincerely waiting for the day when people would replace the term ‘black beauty’ with the strength that lies in the blatant truth – simply beautiful.