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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The shameful case of Fair and Lovely Indians!


ARINDAM CHAUDHURI | New Delhi, May 3, 2012 21:11
Tags : black people | american | racism | skin tone | whites and blacks | martin luther king | |

Just back from a lecture tour of American universities, there is so much to write about. But what I wanted to share this time is something about which I have had strong feelings quite a few times in the past, but never as strong as I have now! Crisscrossing the US of A twice from the West Coast to the East Coast, I met one after the other Indians and their families over lunches, dinners and other meetings. And I do feel sad to say that perhaps the only thing that I found common between most of them was their hidden bias against the Blacks in America. A number of times in the past, I had heard my friends from the US speak derogatorily about the African-American population, often even pejoratively referring to them as Negroes and saying that they wanted to stay in a locality which had no Blacks. I couldn’t really accept this sentiment as a normal phenomenon, and rather used to wonder whether it was mere coincidence that I had so many friends with such an unabashed bias. But after this American journey, I am sure it was never a coincidence.

Friends, relatives, consultants and professors... anyone I got talking to for more than a while almost invariably explained to me at one point of time or the other why the locality they lived in was especially good since it didn’t have Black people! Or for that matter why a particular city was better because of the lesser number of Blacks! Of course, I didn’t pick up fights. But it made me feel sad about the education, schooling and upbringing we are giving to our children. How could educated people, after coming to America, still discriminate on the basis of the colour of the skin? That too coming from a land where they themselves are mostly brown and a land where gods and mythological characters like Krishna and Draupadi are described as being uniquely attractive due to their dark complexion!
Not that Americans are not biased. A breakdown of the human
development index criteria shows that if only White America were to be considered, they would invariably rank #1 in human development. Similarly, if only Black America were considered, they would rank between the ranks of 60 to 70. And yet, Americans finally did choose Barack Obama as their president, showing that although as a nation they have not yet been able to provide equal justice to Blacks, at an individual level they are educated enough to discriminate far lesser. So am I trying to say that Indians are more colour-biased than the Americans? Well, that’s what a Harvard research seems to say too. Harvard University’s Project Implicit website has compiled data on the implicit biases of millions of Americans on a range of issues, such as age, race, skin tone, disability, gender, sexual orientation, etc. And it’s unbelievable but true that Asians demonstrated the highest levels of bias on race and skin tone when compared to people of any other region in the world; Asian-Americans were second only to Whites in their biases in the racially and ethnically sensitive categories. Asians and Asian Americans in fact reported the highest level of explicit prejudice on issues of race and skin tone – higher than even Whites.
The fact gets more authenticated with one look at our matrimonial ads. Everyone wants a fair bride and about 98% of Indians consider themselves between fair to very fair – even in southern India, where the colour of the skin is decisively darker. Stepping up, a fairer girl requires lesser dowry while a darker girl requires more dowry. Our scriptures tried to hint that the corollary of being fair was that one was an upper-class member, while darker complexions were deemed to be characteristics of the lower-class – and having sex with the fair skinned became almost a matter of pride (so much so that the Indian high-end prostitution markets have now been completely taken over by fair-skinned foreigners from Eastern Europe). Add to this the national menace called Fair and Lovely, the fairness cream that is so heavily advertised without any government counter education programme. I can confidently say that advertisements of fairness creams are unfortunately a huge reason behind the creation of a complexed class of educated kids who nurture a shameful skin tone bias resulting into a kind of unspoken social apartheid. To make matters worse, even superstars like Shahrukh Khan are being roped in to endorse similar such brands.
All I can say is that the Indian obsession – which starts with Fair and Lovely at a younger age, then to get a fair partner for marriage as they grow up – is keeping us so backward and shameful in our thinking that even after spending tens of years in the most progressive land called America, those are Indians who display more biases against AfricanAmericans than Americans themselves. Sadly, iconic books like Roots and Uncle Tom’s Cabin aren’t a compulsory part of our education process, subsequently resulting into a case of missing sensitivities of a majority of Indians towards darker skin tones in general, leading to deep-rooted prejudices for the fair skin – unlike other communities in the world. A long time back, Martin Luther King Jr said that he dreamt of a country where man would be judged not by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character. Somewhere in our parenting and schooling system, this one line of education must be drilled inside the brains of each child. But before that, in the brains of every teacher and parent.


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Posted By: V.M. | Rochester, MN | September 9th 2012 | 19:09
Indian-Americans are not anti-black. 84% of Indian Americans voted for Obama. Most Indians I know don't have a problem with African Americans but have a problem with their culture. Inner cities which are overwhelmingly black are areas of crime and filled with pathologies too numerous to mention. For e.g., South side of Chicago has about 50 shootings every weekend. So while Indians do prefer fair skin, their antipathy to African Americans has nothing to do with skin color.
Posted By: Mary H | Boston MA, USA | August 14th 2012 | 01:08
Sad article. No doubt the phenomenon has deep roots in India. However it also has some in the US: Every immigrant group tends to take on our lamentable prejudice against African-descended people (and against newer immigrants!) as a symbol of belonging, of having become an accepted part of society. (Paraphrasing Aviva Chomsky, in a book called "They take our jobs! and 20 other myths about immigrants.") Similar sentiments can be found in many immigrant communities. Very painful, but we who are from here need to look in the mirror and see what kind of values we are holding up to the folks who come to join "us."
Posted By: Letha Anil | Trivandrum | August 7th 2012 | 20:08
Good article.It is very surprising to know this fact.
Posted By: The Y | Bangalore | May 9th 2012 | 14:05
Just a reality check here - most Indians are busy being victims of discimination so much that they have very less time to practice discrimination themselves. I wouldnt be surprised if the Whites and Blacks both don't want to stay in a colony infested by Indians and Asians. And then the Indians, to save their face, must be preaching isolation from the blacks.
Posted By: Anonymyous | US | May 4th 2012 | 20:05
I think the author does not have the complete picture. The reason Indians prefer staying in location where the majority of the population is 'white' because they are perceived as less troublesome. In my own experience I have encountered so many 'African american' people who cause unnecessary trouble. I am not saying everyone is like that. It is more like how Indians hate Pakistanis and think everyone in Pakistan is a terrorist. This is not true there are lot of innocent people in Pakistan who are against terrorism and 'jihad'. But this is the general perception.
Posted By: GM Rao | Pune | May 12th 2012 | 07:05
Trouble is not based on skin colour. It is just based on character. Also, just look into your passports. What is written about your skin colour.
Posted By: P.M.Mathew | Bangalore | May 4th 2012 | 16:05
The editor-in-chief deserves appreciation since he has boldly highlighted an ailment of the Indians in the US. What is required is that they have to co-exist with a multi-racial soceity. Forming Indian associations and bringing back everything Indian will not help. They are in a different land and they have to identify themselves with that land. I am sure that the children of these Indians are not developing such psuedo attitudes.
Posted By: Suzaina Sircar | Dehradun | May 4th 2012 | 15:05
An eye opener!
Posted By: Manoj Singh | Kolkata | May 4th 2012 | 12:05
good article.....thanks for sharing!
Posted By: tsering | Jammu | May 4th 2012 | 10:05
That's why India can never progress up to its potential...there is so much racial bias against the darker skin people (people from UP, Bihar and South India, etc) and the Mongoloid face race of Upper Himalayas and North East. The time is ripe that strict laws be made to punish such raciasl culprits!
Posted By: Tanmay Mandal | Kanpur | May 5th 2012 | 11:05
Nothing will change Sir, it's engraved in us to always poke others whatever may be the reason or desire! We talk of becoming the change, while coming at home we abuse our relatives. Is that the change ? What I think is that our schooling must me made strictly compulsary and free. That's the only way out to eradicate poverty, corruption and other habits that pulls the society back. This needs to be campaigned vigorously by the government, because the common people can only talk, but when the time for action comes, the majority will fall back. So, it's our government who should think hard and fast. Everthing will fall in line thereafter!

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017