Are You Implicitly Colourist?

I know I was.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

When I was a kid (which wasn't all that long ago), I remember seeing a question in my textbook — "Who is your best friend, and why?".

I vividly remember my answer: "Sana is my best friend because she is very white."

The word 'white' here refers to her fair complexion. Little didn't know that 'fair' was a more appropriate word in that context.

Anyway, I don't even know Sana's last name now. But what strikes me is that this kid chose her to be her best friend merely on the grounds of the colour of her skin.

Of course, we don't blame the kid. We blame society.

Did someone explicitly tell me that fair-skinned people are somehow better than those with darker skin tones? I don't think so. But I had learnt that, nonetheless.

And this all comes from a person who herself is dusky.

How could I have dark skin and still see fair skin as desirable? I don't know.

And this was just one incident.

I remember I also used to play some bizarre fashion designing and dress-up games (I never thought I'd write about something this childish, and I'm almost embarrassed now).

Anyway, the point being, you could choose a model on whom you'd try out the clothes you'd designed.

You could choose the model's skin tone too. Guess which one I always chose? The fairest one. And I thought the people who chose any other skin tone must be whacky.

That's the amount of unconscious bias I grew up with.

I thought of penning this article because, on WhatsApp, a dark-skinned friend reacted to my text with a thumbs-up.

The friend's dark-skinned. The thumbs up was of the lightest available skin colour. And this is no isolated instance.

Something's up here, innit?

What's the point of trying to make our digital platforms more representative of our authentic selves if we're still clinging to some absurd ideal self's beauty standards?

The point: These seem like subtle incidents, but I feel like they're part of something bigger. In the 21st century, most of us wouldn't say we still have beauty standards that make specific skin colours more desirable. But these little instances reveal that we're far from unbiased.

I hope, through this article, that you have started to notice subtle signs of prejudice that still operate on various grounds. I'd love to hear your thoughts below!



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Hi! I am exploring Medium firsthand as a writer. You'll find my thoughts about health, productivity and being a teenager in the twenty-first century here.