Talking To A Friend About Skin Colour Made Me Realise How Deep Rooted Our Bias Is

Posted by Bhavya Jain in Society
June 30, 2017

My female friend said furiously,“So you don’t consider beauty as important as honesty, compassion and intellect. Why?”

“You say a person is merely lucky to be born with good looks. So, don’t you believe the same goes for all these other qualities too, as they are also gifted by God?” she added.

“Yes, they are. But in this world, it is far more challenging to preserve and nurture them, as compared to beauty,” I smiled.

I was thrilled at her speechlessness. However, it was short-lived. Her demeanor suggested that she was anything but convinced. I believe she just felt outwitted by me, her fellow debater friend. I was slightly disappointed at that, but this didn’t deter my spirits. I told myself that it would take time to eradicate all these deep-rooted conventional perceptions of beauty and their impact on society. But we need to keep trying.

This altercation began over a meme that she shared on Facebook, which was the photograph of a dark complexioned woman. It came with a caption asking one to tag a Chintu, Pintu or Rahul  to marry her. She seemed shocked at the seriousness with which I confronted her for sharing such a post. She tried to convince me that it is was all for fun and that I shouldn’t take it so seriously. And, well, I knew that. I knew she wasn’t a racist, she only shared it for fun. She wasn’t a bad person. She was only a victim of ignorance.

That was the only reason I was willing to discuss the issue with her at length. Else, what use would it be if she was actually racist?

I felt it was my duty to make her realize the kind of harm such social media posts may cause to our society which is already deep into skin-tone prejudices. The way these kind of posts make fun of innocent people may seriously discourage and hurt people with similar features.

After debating for a while, she got the gist of what I wanted to tell her. But then, the discussion shifted from that one post to the looks and complexion based discrimination in society.

“Waise yar, kuch bhi keh le, ye ‘looks don’t matter’, sab bekar ki baatein hain. Fark to padta hi hai (Whatever you say, these ‘looks don’t matter’ claims are silly. Looks do matter and make a difference).”

She said, “You see, all our heroines are so fair-skinned.”

“Deepika? Bipasha? Kajol?” I questioned.

“But, they are all drop dead gorgeous,” she added quickly.

“And talented,” I said.

Furthermore, I told her that it is their confidence and hard work because of which they earned their fame, not just because of their looks. In the past, there have been so many  male and female actors in the film industry who were unable to establish themselves despite their good looks.

I realized that I was getting carried away, and that we were going off-topic. I couldn’t give her a chance to take our discussion towards Bollywood, since it had nothing more to offer other than songs like “Chittiyan Kalaiyaan” and “Gore-Gore Mukhde Pe Kaala Kaala Chashma”.

I steered the conversation back to the main issue by asking her if looks should matter at all. The question is about why do we inherently assume one skin tone superior to the other.

Should something that isn’t in a person’s hand really be pitted against them? I asked her that if people like us also end up saying ‘fark to padta hai’ (it does matter) – then how could we rid ourselves of this deep rooted evil of color based discrimination?

As someone with a dusky complexion, I have faced some hurtful comments on my skin color once in a while as well. However, that is nothing in comparison to the pain and agony that dark-skinned women are subjected to. These women have had an inferiority complex rooted inside them by others since their childhood because of the color of their skin.

I consider myself lucky to befriend some amazing dark-skinned people, who showed me that beauty is not a property of those with a lighter skin tone. I learned that it is how one carries themselves that determines how attractive one is, that one does not have to be conventionally beautiful to earn respect, love and popularity – it is all about the confidence one exudes. I don’t know whether it was a result of their parents’ wonderful upbringing or their own courage to overlook and outgrow such a disturbing social stigma, or both; but they did make me realize one thing – a person does not need a fair complexion, they only need a fair chance by society to become their best selves.

“Okay, tell me one last thing,” my friend said.

With the air of MS Dhoni wanting to finish the game off with his helicopter shot, she asked, “Would you marry a dark skinned girl?”

She hastily added, “Now If you say you won’t, then that would mean you’re a hypocrite.”

I looked into her eyes and said, “Look, marrying a girl because she is dark-skinned is equal to rejecting a girl because she is dark-skinned. The idea is to annihilate skin color as a criteria of accepting someone.”

“Haain (What)?”

I know it will take time for my words to seep into her. But I am sure that once they do reach her golden heart, it will open the door to a society where fairness of conduct is valued and not the fairness of complexion.