My Life in Colorism

When I watched this video, I was shocked that every word that came out of these women’s voices has been something I’ve also said in the past. This video covers Black women in America and many of their tales are also shared with dark women in the Indian community.

Much like slavery in America, the caste system existed (let’s not lie – it still exists) in India. Within the Black community light skin is more desirable because of an idea tied back to slavery. The house slaves were lighter than the field hands because they were not in the sun all day long (and probably for other reasons…). The same idea lies in the caste system. The lowest caste is attributed to outdoor menial labor while higher castes received indoor jobs such as banking, engineering or medical work.

The Indian community, much like most other non-Euro ethnic groups, believes dark is unfavorable – no, they believe that it’s a curse. Dark is a physical label that attributes one to stupidity and ugliness. As an Indo – American, I literally feel like ripping my hair out because I live in a country with a majority of White people constantly tanning yet I exist in a smaller community of Indians that make me feel like I’m lesser for being dark. Many of my own family members have shamed me for my skin color while my white sisters have shared their feelings of jealousy of my chocolate complexion. I don’t think there is anything more frustrating than White girls telling me that they are jealous of my skin.

Bleaching is a fairly routine thing I have to go through for important Indian events such as weddings because dark is ugly and not fashionable. God forbid someone thinks I’m a low caste. As a baby, my mother used to give me baths in turmeric and chickpea flour to lighten my skin – a common thing in Indian culture. I used to break out in hives every time I got these lightening baths. We now know I’m deathly allergic to chick peas.

Throughout my life, and I admit even now, I’ve been ashamed of being dark. I wasn’t given a choice at birth to capture mainstream beauty like white girls. I will always stand out in a crowd in America. My life is intertwined with my darkness. I’ve been conditioned to understand that some colors in clothing do not look good on me, that my naturally curly hair should be straightened for interviews because it is naturally disheveled and nappy and that I should use a lighter foundation on my skin (than foundation that matches my skin..).

Indian guys have told me that they are not attracted to dark skin and for some reason-that’s okay. I have definitely suffered hyper-exotification because I’m dark. I’ve felt that I’m less desirable because of skin color and my body shape. I don’t fit the mold but there is some sort of curiosity amongst men about dark skinned girls. I know that meaningful relationships are and will be hard to come by for me.

Some of the quotes I connected with in the video:

One lady said – as a child, she asked her mom to put bleach in her bath water so she would be lighter:

…..”so that my skin would be lighter and so that I could escape the feelings that I had about not being as beautiful, as acceptable, as lovable.

One girl explained that she used to wash her face hoping that the darkness would come off – something that I used to do as a child:

“I thought it was dirt and I tried to clean it off and it wouldn’t come off.”

This link is to show how ingrained colorism is within children:

I believe parents need to change their vocabulary when they speak to their children. Parents are their light and they hang on to every word you say. Why not compliment your daughter for being strong or considerate than for being skinny or pretty. Or pointing out that their existence has a positive impact in the world instead of saying your light skin will help you acquire a good husband.

I hope that one day I can be completely comfortable with my complexion but I know that lookism and colorism are embedded in my heritage. The best I can do is encourage and educate my family about the affects of colorism on children~