by Areej Khan
During a time of social uproar , protests and petitions have sparked rejection and
reexamination of how racial discrimination affects all aspect of life , including the
mainstream beauty industry.
South Asia is no stranger to colorism. For decades, the incessant promotion of
whitening products has brought to life a generation of insecurity , lack of
empowerment and innate prejudice. The marketing campaigns  that
emphasize light skin as a positive quality, feeds into the inherent stereotypes of
millions of Indians - equating fair skin with beauty and black with ugly.
Clinical psychologist Radhika Bapat says “the concept of fair skin is ingrained at a
very young age along with sexualization of identities”. Whether it be potential spouses or
partners, skin color is a factor seen by many as ‘a personal preference’. The real question
here is not if they should think this way but why they deem the color of one's skin a
deciding factor in who they love and want to be with. These ingrained preconceptions
have given major importance to how you look , that sites such as Shaadi.com  have
made it an option to choose what race you prefer. When an option is given to the mass
demographic of South Asians looking for marriage, they see it as a moral and defining
part of the process to find the ‘one’. Albeit, both the organizations and the users can be
blamed. However, in a progressive time such as now, issues must be solved starting
within mega corporations that feed off of both stereotypes and prejudice.
The most powerful contribution to this relentless prejudice is the usage of mass media
,especially content that is popularized amongst young and impressionable children. Kids
as young as four years old are taught about the inferiority of dark skin and superiority of
white ‘fair’ complexions. These teachings are internalized by the youth and only become
ingrained deeper into your psyche.
Kabyashree Dasgupta, 23, an author and student of advertising and marketing
communication, at Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Mumbai, says  “The concept
of fairness was introduced to me by Fair & Lovely. I remember I was seven or eight years
old and those TV advertisements mesmerized me. I was so fascinated by the colour and
ended up feeling bad about my own. My mother is very fair and my father has a
brownish-whiteish complexion, and I took after my father.”
Additionally, children in South Asia lack role models that promote body positivity and
empowerment for minorities. Celebrities in India- the same ones that advocate against
colorism and for black lives- endorse these fairness creams. Proclaimed activists and
A-list stars like Priyanka Chopra , Sonam Kapoor , and Disha Patani did not hold back in
expressing their outrage and support to the BLM movement. These efforts were seen as
completely hypocritical when the millions of Indians that look up to them and use the
creams that they advertise , just to be ‘fair’ like them. It's ironic that when it comes to
western outrage , they are publicly advocating for the lives lost because of racism but
will be willingly ignorant of the industries based on colorism , for their own benefit and
income. This is a double standard that is often overlooked when it comes to South
Asians who are mocked for our skin color , accents and stereotypical preconceived
notions. Colorism isn't just central to the modern west. It is deeply embedded into the
minds of millions as a result of events under British colonial rule, where British
officials consistently degraded dark-skinned Indians and favored light-skinned Indians
What we need is empowerment and the necessary initiative to reverse the
emotional and mental damage that TV Advertisements ,based on pure colorism,
has implemented on young asians. It is very common to disregard issues
regarding South Asia in a time where the media is so centralized on America and
Europe. You cannot support Black Lives while actively neglecting the issues in the
South that is undoubtedly fueled by racism.
 Rekha Balakrishnan, Nirandhi Gowthaman & Tenzin Norzom, 2nd July 2020, Not
fair, but still lovely – is India actually changing its ‘fairness’ narrative? Retrieved from
 Melissa Mahtani, CNN ,June 24, 2020 , Shaadi.com removes skin tone filter.
about the author:
Areej Khan is the Asian Hispanic Empowerment Organization country representative of both Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Based in Dubai, she is passionate about seeking social justice for all and a way she expresses her passion is through art and writing. In this article, she talks about colorism in South Asia and its detrimental effects on the people through increased racism.