Colorism is happening, not only with Africans throughout the diaspora, but also with our equally melanated Indian brothers and sisters. I was surprised, but not surprised (if you know what I mean) to learn of the rampant colorism that’s happening in India. I have heard of the color caste system in their culture, where the darker skinned people, suffer more discrimination and poverty. India has a strict a centuries old, color caste class system, which has been exacerbated by centuries of British and Portuguese colonial rule. (I think it probably arises from it)
About thirty years ago, many American cosmetics giants wormed their way into the Indian culture and started advertising and selling their “skin lightening” products to Indian women. The Cosmetic giants are now entrenched in India and are exploiting the Indian people’s misplaced desire for lighter skin for all they can get out of it, and it’s worth billions of dollars! Revlon, Avon, Estee Lauder and other cosmetics giants are manipulating the insecurities of the people with their blunt advertisements for skin lightening products with names like: Refined White, Absolute White and Cyber White EX, (Cyber White EX, WTF?) and it’s aparent that the people are buying into this madness big time. What’s interesting is that those cosmetic firms which have traditionally targetted Indian women, are now, in unchecked greed, going after the men! Last year there was the brouhaha about the Facebook application that could allow users to lighten their profiles. This whole thing was a campaign launched by Vaseline, and the ad promised to “unleash what was hidden underneath your skin!” (Another WTF) In true Madison Avenue tradition, they simply use a famous Bollywood actor in their ads, but in India they go hard! There is no euphemistic wishy washiness—they just show the actors face split in half: one half its regular dusky color and the other half lightened. Aparently this approach worked well, and many MEN bought into this.
I’ve been saying it for years. It’s the media that perpetuate the cultural stereotypes. They understand the peoples’ psychology all too well, even if the people of color themselves don’t, that their oppression by whites creates their self hatred. The people are psychologically vulnerable, and ripe for the pickings. So then all the Corporate Cosmetic giants have to do is come in behind and sell a pipe dream to the spiritually broken people. Subliminally, sell the dream of looking more like your oppressors, thereby being a better person and having a better life than you could with your natural dark skin. We saw this sublimation here in North America, then in Africa and it probably occurs anywhere that dark skinned people are being oppressed by white skinned people. The desire to be something other than one’s dark skinned self is so strong that these products truly sell themselves. They fly off the store shelves. To top it off, the Cosmetics giants have no responsibility for the blatant immorality or even the safety—they can blame it all on the color caste culture of the people, so in effect it becomes the people’s fault that they are oppressed and miserable. After all, the people WANT these products!!
Thankfully, the people of India are fighting back against this onslaught of, dare I say, spiritual violence! Many groups are popping up to deal with this and there are certain Bollywood actors and actresses who refuse to be a part of the marketing of these horrid products that exploit and destroy their people spiritually. It’s such a terrible thing the way capitalism devours.
I found an interesting Indian blog called Sepia Mutiny (love the name) and they addressed this issue and posted one of the commercials ads. (the link to the article is above) In the ad a sad depressed dark skinned young man couldn’t get a girl’s attention. A properly lightened friend schooled him about using “Fair and Handsome”, a cream made just for men “rough skin instead of using the creams made for women’s soft skin”. So the depressed guy used the product, turned 4 shades lighter, got the girl and lived happily ever after! That particular post got 289 comments and counting as young East Indian commenters throughout their own diaspora discussed this important topic concerning their own skin issues. I can’t help but feel a kind of De ja vu as I watchd the video and read some of the commentary about this very compelling topic.
I hope that the Indian people continue to fight to overcome this assault, bit by bit. It’s just another instance of oppressed people of color being further manipulated for the benefit of these huge corporations for which NOTHING matters but the money in their bottom line.
Just as an addition to this article: I was recently informed of reggae artist Vybz Kartel, who has drastically lightened his skin and has incurred the wrath of his fans! Not all. It’s so sad that someone would go to these extremes to be considered acceptable to those who will never accept you. Vybz is now a very cheap version of a light skinned black man, when he was a full version of his beautiful dark skinned God appointed self! Many say he looks like a corpse, rather than a browning! But he thinks he looks fine. Well!