“You are really lucky to be this black and yet this successful”. That line from Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’s speech strikes sharp cord to me as well as anyone who falls outside the white/fair colour group. I knew what the resounding message was going to be: “It doesn’t matter how light or dark you are, beauty has no colour or shade..you are beautiful inside”.
I applaud her for her courage and determination and many of you would have done the same. Many people of various colours (white included) have wrote comments praising her and testifying to her message as well. Sadly though, this speech as enlightening as it is, has a long way to go in turning on the lights to people who refuse to see.
We can blame the Movie industry, the fashion and beauty industry and many do blame “Western” civilization and advertising for much of the white/fair skin image of beauty imposed on us. But I can tell you that we point our fingers to the West and are ready to assign blame when we ourselves are as guilty of fair prejudice.
“I don’t want to be dark like you”.
I am from Singapore, a multi-racial city that has people of various colours, with the Chinese being the majority. Yet, Singapore has managed this well and there is no racial discrimination in any legal or state matters. However, even in such a mixed existence, the colour of the skin plays a big role in the way you are viewed. Years ago, in High school, there was always this one Chinese kid who refused to play soccer with the guys out in the field and when asked why, he had a ready response and pointed to a group of Indian boys “I don’t want to end up dark like them”.
Now before you classify this as a “one-off” incidient, you only have to stay here in Sunny Singapore to realize how people give off this message in various vibes. You can see lots of people carrying umbrellas even when the sun is not bearing down hot. People scurry for shelter when the sun brightens up just a little
Stop any of these people and they won’t say “I am protecting myself from UV rays”. All you would hear is “I don’t want to be dark”. It is a little wonder why some of the Chinese refer to Indians here as “hei ren” (translated as black people from Mandarin). And that too not in a pleasantly sounding way. If anything at all, the popularity of fair skin treatments and skin whitening creams among the fairer chinese is already clear proof. What’s beautiful are fair maidens like Korean and Japanese actresses. As much as people here would praise this speech, you will never see Lupita Nyong on a billboard in Singapore to embodify beauty.
The brown shunning the brown
And if you thought it was just white or yellow people, you are in for a surprise. Indians themselves are equally guilty. Fairness is still a mark of beauty in the Indian realm and Bollywood and Kollywood are doing very well in white washing our screens with snow white princesses. Even in this brown chocolate pond, the milk chocolate gets the praise and the dark chocolate gets the bitter face. Although this is not true in all cases, I am very sure there are men and women out there who have experience such disrimination even among their own race.
Looking beyond colours
So many people have come up and talked “inner beauty” and it is indeed heart warming to see people of colours taking screen roles and making great strides in the fashion industry. It is also even more cheerful to see the white and fair people sharing these “rainbow” views on beauty.
But we still have a long way to go. “Fair and beautiful” still sounds so eerily natural to say and words such as “dark secrets, black magic, dark days” only resonate negative emotions. Is anybody willing to change the colours of our English Language?
“There is no shade in beauty” Lupita proclaims and indeed looking from the inside out, all of us would agree. But just as how men are not going to rate plus size women as the most hottest women on screen after hearing this, many people still lean towards fairness and whiteness as the closer mark to beauty.
But fret not, It’s not utopia. We are just getting there at a very slow pace. How do you see beauty in the dark?
You just need to be colour blind and that, my friend, is a trait that is as worthy of applause as Luptia’s speech.
Image Credit: http://www.ibtimes.com/lupita-nyongos-acceptance-speech-2014-oscars-your-dreams-are-valid-1558882