Talking about Colourism

Jun 25, 2020

My name is Bibi Nubir and I work as a Finance Assistant for a charity think-tank called Demos. Demos is a champion of people, ideas, and democracy by listening to people, from all walks of life. I am currently doing my Level 4 AAT at Whitehat. 

“Use this cream EVERY DAY to brighten your skin, so that you can become fairer” OR “drink this and eat that to have a fairer complexion” - these are just a few of the sentences I have heard a million times from my community since a young age. Asian women with dark skin are called names, and have skin lightening creams pressed upon them by their families. 

Colourism is a profound issue in the Asian community.

I grew up in Mauritius, a beautiful island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Mostly dominant with South Asian culture, Mauritius is still one of the most multicultural and diverse countries. Creoles and Indian communities are just the two of its ethnic groups. You would not expect to see colourism in a community like this. Yet - the colour of your skin matters there. There is favouritism, inequity and discrimination solely due to your complexion.

When I was young, I had a subconscious desire to whiten my skin, to wear colours that would make me “look lighter” or even wear make-up at a young age just to look pretty and fair. People, families and friends would always favour fairer complexions. 

It is a shame to see most of the South Asian community, mainly the so-called “Bollywood Actors” not speaking out about RACISM and COLOURISM. Why? Bollywood contributes to the fascination with fair skin and most leading Bollywood stars are pale-complexioned. They are ambassadors for these products, they help to promote the idea that lighter means better. 

This needs to STOP. We all need to realise that ignoring, maltreating or picking on someone solely due to complexion is WRONG. It can have a disastrous mental, emotional and social effect.

I want to encourage the South Asian community to help and support our Black brothers and sisters, the Black Lives Matter Movement and come together. 

How can you help?

  • Start from your home. Confront casual racism and colourism by not letting any racist comments slide. 
  • Do not let the generational gap stop you. Don’t think that just because they come from a “different time” they “don’t understand”... There is still hope. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
  • Acknowledge that anti-black racism exists in our community. It takes change to make change. Let it begin with YOU.
  • Celebrate dark skin tones and erase the beliefs that “Fair skin is superior in the South Asian Community and dark skin is seen as inferior.” It starts with YOU. 
  • Educate yourself. Here are some great articles you can read on colourism:
  • Lastly, YES racism affects ALL people of colour but do your part to ELIMINATE racism and prejudice in our community. 

I would be happy to hear some of your thoughts, ideas, stories or questions on this and how you think we should tackle this on-going issue in society.

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