The Issue of Colorism in Societies around the World

The Issue of Colorism in Societies around the World


July 14, 2020

With the tense situation around race and skin color in America, educating ourselves on the effects of skin color is crucial. Upon my investigation into the impacts of skin, I became aware of one word: Colourism.

For context, Colourism is defined as "prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group".

Everything seemed to fit into place. I began to understand that the reason we see darker skin colors as undesirable has everything to do with history. Beauty standards and expectations for women have infiltrated so deeply into our society that we often see it as normal and never question it. To understand how our society began this discrimination, let's delve back into India's history.

The mid-1800s were a time when the British colonized India, developing a stronghold on Indian culture that maintains to this day. Under colonialism, poverty rates skyrocketed and life expectancy was reduced. Simply put, the lives of Indians and their descendants would be altered forever.

The white man brought their customs and traditions to the continent and left a lasting mark on Indians. Indians began to see their white skin as a power symbol and as the desired quality. The infatuation with being as white had started!

Similar to India, many Asian countries were colonized by Caucasians, and the colonization period left a lasting mark on many cultures. Having light skin became associated with wealth and privilege, and women were pushed to having treatments done to alter their skin tone.

Seeking to capitalize on the newfound desire to be white, companies were quick to release products into the skin-whitening market. This industry is worth over 24 billion dollars today and will continue to rise. Products include many varieties of chemicals in creams, pills, and liquids. Sometimes, in order to reduce production costs, cheaper chemicals may be used, such as life-threatening mercury.

Dr. Gail Dines is a professor who teaches sociology and women's studies. She said, “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” This quote could not be more true, especially in a time when companies are solely looking to capitalize on women's insecurities.

If you're interested in the Industry, please watch this video: Why People Risk Their Lives to Bleach their Skin

Words like: "You're pretty for a dark girl" can be detrimental to a young woman, and can impact her self-confidence. Instead, focus on her character and knowledge rather than appearance.

In the world we live in, looks can seem to be the only that is important. Girls are raised with the idea of fitting cosmetic expectations, and that can truly limit their creative and logical sides. By teaching and showing young girls that they are more valuable than their attractiveness, we can cultivate a future that is inclusive, developed, and improved.

Because of societal pressure to be white, many young girls begin to focus on their looks and go down a hole of self-pity and hatred. With the notion that their skin color isn't proportionally represented in the media, they have no true role-models to look up to. Why is our society failing our dark-skinned children?

This past fall, I was preparing to go on a trip to India, and my family and I were going to a family party, and weeks beforehand, my mother had asked me to use a particular face mask every day. It was the end of the tennis season, and the continual UV rays that I was exposed to had made tanned. I realized that the face mask had supposed "face-whitening" properties, and I realized how ingrained this idea was into women. My mother had meant no harm, but I began to realize that even she didn't know how far-reaching the impacts of colonization had gone.

What can we do to make our society safer for people of darker skin?

1. Give them a compliment!

Kindness can go so far nowadays. Because of social media and the news, it's so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives. Taking the time to be nice to someone will make their day 10x better. Spreading kindness should be a priority and would help so many if done properly.

2. Include people of darker skin in entertainment

There are a few actors with dark skin that make it in the industry, but having more will show children that their skin is beautiful. In many circumstances, inclusivity will only help our future.

3. Get skin-whitening products off the market

This is even more important for products with dangerous ingredients. Governments should make it a priority to getting these hazardous items off the market.

Lastly, skin color is nothing more than the amount of melanin in your skin. See it as such and go through the world appreciating and loving everyone, regardless of their skin shade! To those who have a darker skin shade, it may be hard loving your skin, but rest assured that you are all gorgeous!

Gender equality is something that is extremely crucial for our society to improve. Going forward, we should take these pressures of skin and beauty off of our girls so that they learn that beauty is only skin-deep and should be treated as such. These stereotypes of having white skin should be removed altogether so that future generations do not see skin color as a barrier.

Again, it's important that we understand that the #HeforShe movement is not about bringing one gender above the other. It's more so about making the two genders equivalent in that they respect and understand each other. After all, how can we become equals when skin color is such a distinguishable boundary? By understanding that we all have equal value, we can then fight for equality in society.

Harshita Bathina
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Harshita Bathina is a high school senior in the Bay Area. She enjoys all things creative, especially writing! In her free time, she loves to bowl, play tennis, and spend time with her family. She aspires to research microbiology whilst also delving into the many calamities that our world faces.