From the Viewsroom

Owning our melanin

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on April 13, 2017

Indians are obsessed with skin colour

Former BJP MP Tarun Vijay’s comment on how India is not racist, it lives in harmony with South India which is full of black people, did not seem as troubling for the colour reference as it did for ‘othering’ one half of the nation. But it evoked several indignant reactions as to how there are light-skinned people in the South too.

The complex about colour among us Indians is so entrenched that those asserting that not all South Indians are black or brown are missing the point. So what if they are dark? Is it not problematic that we are loath to be identified with a race that has an abundance of melanin? How is this any different from Vijay’s statements?

The bias against dark skin pervades everything we consume. Many cultures are prejudiced against black, the colour symbolising not just lowly, but also evil and undesirable, for the most part.

Consider the search for a spouse, especially a female. The search is almost always for a lighter-complexioned person. To put it bluntly, it is an attempt to upgrade, as dark connotes ‘lesser well-born’. To quote one example from popular culture, the jokers/ villains in the movies are dark (or fat, or have some physical quirk, if not a disability). Remember the Kalakeyas in Bahubali I?

Many of us simply cannot countenance the fact that they and theirs are less than light-skinned. We deal with it by dividing the fairness into a spectrum — much like the fairness meters that fairness creams often provide to prove their efficacy — and tell ourselves that wife, child, ourselves, are some shade of fair or the other, certainly not dark.

Why can’t we be black, brown and beautiful, rather than fair and lovely? Can’t the craze for tanned skin in the West teach us to accept our skin colour? It’s high time we owned our melanin and stopped being so defensive. For if we don’t have basic respect for ourselves, others will not, either.

Senior Deputy Editor

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Published on April 13, 2017
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