Being Fair to The ‘Un’fair- how to deal with a complexion-bias in society

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Image credit-Ohmega1982-freediditalphotos.net

After a long and painful labour of about eight hours, she delivered the eight-pound-baby-girl by Caesarean section, for which I gave anaesthesia. The baby was whisked off to the N.I.C.U. As I walk out of the operating room, the waiting relatives which include the two grandmothers, have just one question, “Baby ka rang kaisa hai?”What is the complexion of the baby?

I am stunned and flabbergasted for, naturally, amidst all the flurry of the surgery, who had noticed? Certainly not I !!! I DO notice that they are both not very fair-complexioned, which meant that genetics would dictate that the baby would be “unfair”. RolIing my eyes heavenward, I  say a silent prayer that the baby will be brought up without a constant lament about her colour or made to slather her face and body with some fairness cream or whitening agents, which promise much to “unfair” women.

AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON???

This poses an age-old question. Do we subconsciously give brownie (no pun intended) points to a person due to their colour? How many of us as siblings, bosses, colleagues and friends and worse, as family, end up gravitating towards, favouring, befriending and overlooking faults of people who are of a lighter complexion? Are we still affected by, (as one wit put it), global pigmentocracy?

Surfing the net, I came across two separate articles related to President Obama’s election campaign.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/04/obama-skin-tone-darker-in_n_89829.html

http://thegrio.com/2012/05/08/did-the-vets-for-a-strong-america-anti-obama-ad-darken-the-presidents-skin/

These allege that the opposing camp floated ads (unsuccessful) in which the colour of his skin was darkened by several shades to present him as a negative figure, pointing to the shallowness of criteria that are perceived as desirable for even presidential candidates.

CHILDHOOD-An age of forming opinions

A group of us were discussing this one day and one of us remarked that she had some very hurtful moments as a child because she had been “dusky”. Moreover, she was many shades darker than her sister, which made for some terrible comparisons as a child. This is what probably made her competitive as a child, always excelling in every field, including sports and academics. As she dryly put it, “Everyone was worried that I would tan; so I would swim and play to my heart’s content, just to provoke them.”

My heart went out to the little girl in her past, weighed down by prejudice at an early age.ImageImage credit-smarnad-freedigitalphotos.net

HOW CULPABLE ARE WE?

Are mothers of dark complexioned children (especially girls), doing the right thing by being obsessed with their child’s colour? As educated and responsible parents, we should be aware of the consequences of such behaviour.

The harm to a child’s confidence due to the attitude of a parent or family member is irreparable. Parents and family should be the first bulwark of a child against the harshness of the world, and should take care to make a child feel special. We cannot change the way that friends, class-mates, teachers, a boss or colleagues treat her, but we can certainly equip our child with the confidence, strength and self-esteem that is needed to face such discrimination.

WHAT IF YOUR CHILD IS FAIR?

Mothers of ‘fair’ children surely know that beauty is skin-deep and characteristics such as education, personality, talent, etc are longer-lasting. Bringing up your child with a sense of entitlement due to his/her complexion can only result in adults who are complacent about themselves. In any case, colour is only a matter of comparison. A colleague I knew, who is fairer than most of us, returned from a trip abroad rather miffed, because she was at the receiving end of racist slurs from the “real Goras”.

WHAT CAN ONE DO?

1.) We can certainly stop talking or remarking about skin-colour as a parameter of beauty. The recently crowned Miss America, Nina, of Indian origin is facing racist comments due to her skin colour. If we can feel outrage on her behalf, why can we not feel sympathy for others in the same boat?

2.) We can stop the use of skin whiteners and fairness creams in our children and educate other parents about their adverse effects. Long-term use of whitening creams results in adverse effects such as kidney damage, peripheral nerve damage (due to mercury), and white skin patches (due to ammonia and hydroquinone).

3.) We could go a step further and cast our vote in the “dark is beautiful” campaign run by change.org, which urges film stars to stop endorsing fairness creams. This is the site

http://www.darkisbeautiful.in/

4.) If you are a teacher, parent, instructor, etc., make sure that no mocking, hazing or bullying takes place, as the most innocuous of taunts can have severe mental repercussions. For leads in school plays, public performances, cheer-leading, sleepovers, etc. are you or your ward subconsciously choosing the fairest child? Every child deserves praise and few moments in the spotlight to boost their confidence.

5.) If you hear anyone (especially your own child) within your hearing, refer to a person with reference to his/her skin tone (kaloo, Kaalia, kauwa), you could gently remind her/him that condescension due to skin colour is a moronic attitude.

If we stop being judgmental and prejudicial in your everyday dealings with people, with regard to their physical attributes, our children will certainly follow suit.

As Nandita Das, Hindi film actor and supporter of the “Stay Unfair, Stay Beautiful” campaign says, “It is about the mindset of a society. The enemy is not the star or the brand that advocates the product, but in our own heads.”

 

Published on parentedge, parenting website

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