Dark Skinned Meenachis

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Zangeetha Raghavan

 

I wrote this after doing several research,reading  on the origins of colourism and based on my own personal experiences. Extensive research has been done in the West regarding this matter.

Colourism among the Indian community. According to Wikipedia,  Discrimination based on skin color, or colorism, is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which human beings are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.

As you may have realized, this community has a preference for light skinned people. Despite the fact that South Indians are mostly from the Dravidian etymology  and Dravidians mostly are dark skinned our genetic patterns and the climate of the place we originated from.

I am a dark skinned girl from a middle class family and all my life, I have been reminded again and again of my dark skin, in a very negative connotation. Many Indian aunties have given me abundance of free advice on how to make my skin colour lighter ( ranging from applying sandalwood/turmeric powder on my face, to using products such as Fair and Lovely and Fairever). As a child, I wont deny that all this have given me a low self esteem.  I would never leave my house without some powder on my face. And I remember in secondary school where some of my Indian school mates used to call me “Kaka” (crow in Tamil). Of course, 10 years later, looking back I can understand the idiosyncratic behavior of these people and laugh, but can you imagine how it impacted my self esteem back then?

SK Durai : I must admit due to my ignorance, I’ve called many the same.

So why this discrimination? Why this jokes? Why this irrational preference?

In the Mahabharata, the god Krishna, whose Sanskrit word in its origin language Kṛṣṇa is primarily an adjective for “Black” or “Dark”,is sometimes also translated as “all attractive”. Shiva too was depicted as a tall and dark man. And naturally, South Indian from Tamil Nadu tend to have dark skin due to the incredibly hot climate there, and as the main economic activity was agriculture. Furthermore, recent archeological evidence  pertaining to the Lost Land of Lemuria shows that the Indian and African continent were connected by land in ancient times. So, what happened then?

Probably the Aryan invasion/migration of the Dravidian land during ancient times has played a part in shaping this conditioning. The Aryans are generally from the North and has fairer skin and were physically taller. Please not that this is just a general description as I am not a historian to go into details.

Another major  and more recent event that could have shaped this conditioning is the invasion of British in India. During this times, skin  color served as a signal of high status for British. Individuals with lighter skin more privileges and oppurtunities than the dark skinned, and the darker skinned people were more socially and economically disadvantaged due to the appearance.

I am guessing that this might have been the reason behind such deeply entrenched issue in our community. Whenever  I bring up this matter, or resist these kind of discrimination, they look at me as if something is wrong with me, i.e. that I have low self esteem. However, my low self esteem days are gone. I am in my late 20s now. I am aware of myself and my own beauty. And above that I am very much aware that the idea of beauty is projected to us via Media ( Tamil movies : when was the last time you saw a dark skinned actress in a lead role? ) and advertisement is very unhealthy for the self image of our girls, especially.

Once a guy told me that I was all attractive but he doesn’t date dark girls. Another time, a girlfriend told me,  whilst describing another girl, that her skin colour was not as bad as mine.  My aunty was afraid that I would never get married because I was dark.  And now, whenever I come back from Europe, everybody  would comment  on how fairer I have gotten (naturally because when it is winter, there is minimum exposure to the sunlight and your skin lightens up two or three tones).

Of course, these type of discrimination exist everywhere.  So, is it justified? People laugh at me when I bring up these topic.. If this was a joke, Apartheid would still exist today.  Its actually very simple, none of my Malay, or Chinese or European  friends discriminated me. Even now, I am in Europe, nobody discriminates, in fact, its seen as a very serious matter here. It is something frowned upon. But what I don’t understand is why we like to discriminate and incriminate our own kind?

 

Zangeetha Raghavan