Dear Malaysia, Will You Dare to Be Colour Blind?

By Sai Tharshini Varathan | A Dark is Beautiful Campaigner

I come from the wonderful and multicultural land of Malaysia. Malaysia is filled with diverse people that are generally friendly. But often, I get to hear a lot of painfully discriminatory comments because of my skin colour, I used to feel hurt and wondered what was so wrong in being dark? 

 
I was once told to go to the temple and pray for a new face; to ask the Goddess for a better and fairer complexion. Of everything I have been told about my skin colour, this was the comment that really hurt.

My family is an upper middle class family and I’ve been fortunate to always have their support. The one person who really helped me is my MOM. She instilled confidence in me. She taught me to stand tall and be the best. When people mocked the colour of my skin and discriminated against me, she taught me to say, “Thank You.” People stopped teasing as they couldn’t make me feel bad anymore and they didn’t get the reaction they wanted.

 
Now, when people offer me fairness creams, I do find it hurtful, but I have learned to say “No. I do not need it. I am happy being a dark person and I find being dark is something lovely”.
 

I want to tell the people in Malaysia, my people, that being dark is not something dirty, disgusting or unwanted. Dark can be elegant and pretty. Dark can be ambitious and proud. Dark can be studious and over achieving. Because it does not depend on how dark or how fair a person’s skin is.

Dear Malaysia, will you join me and dare to be colour blind?

Sai Tharishini Varathan is a 19 yrs old medical student from Malaysia. 
 
She loves to travel, make friends, and everything to do with science.
 
During her free time, she writes her own stories and wishes to publish them someday. She also loves to sing and participate in dramas.



The Old Has Gone, The New Has Come!

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW


It’s amazing to see how the Dark is Beautiful Campaign has gone viral. The WOW team was taken by storm. We are grateful to all our supporters for standing up with us to address this age-old belief that ‘fair alone is beautiful’.

Yes, it was our initiative BUT it has now become YOUR campaign.We also thank those who have expressed opposing views and have criticized our methodology. You challenged us to think deeper. But the fact is that we are pioneers in this effort and have no precursors we can learn from. We learn from our own mistakes and are willing to take risks.

Our focus for the campaign remains the same: to address the toxic belief that a person’s worth is measured by the colour of their skin. We do not plan to delve into the reasons why this belief exists. We want to look beyond that and seek solutions to change prevalent attitudes against dark skin.

We are concerned about factors that endorse and propagate skin colour bias presently in our environment. However, our goal is not to point fingers but to rather instigate and inspire change. It’s time for a new wave of thinking towards skin colour. It’s time to redefine beauty. Not based on skin colour, but on a person’s innate worth.

We would like everyone to see the image of the Creator in all people irrespective of their gender, skin colour, caste or social standing. It’s time to change what we see on our TV screens. It’s time we change what we teach our children about their skin colour. It’s time to challenge what we traditionally see on our matrimonial columns.

As Miss America, Nina Davuluri said: let’s rise above colours! The time has come for a paradigm shift in our globalized world to embrace cultural, racial and skin colour diversity.

I have watched a commercial for a fairness product on TV that says: Dark is out, fair is in! 

But the Dark is Beautiful campaigners would like to say: “The old attitude towards skin colour is OUT; celebrating beauty beyond colouris in.” Colour correction not required anymore!

Click here to see petition
 
 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavitha Emmanuel is passionate about campaigning for issues concerning women, children and the underprivileged. She is the proud mother of WOW’s youngest champion, Ritika Emmanuel. 
 
Kavitha finds great fulfilment in helping women realize their dreams and live up to their full potential. She founded Women of Worth (WOW) with a vision to empower, train and motivate women to ‘Be the Best They can Be’. She is always looking for opportunities to create avenues for change that will make the world a better place for women.

Who Is The Real Enemy?

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder & Director of Women of Worth

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography

Have you ever wondered where skin colour bias originated from? I have. And frankly speaking, there is no simple answer. Skin colour bias is so much a part of our culture that if we tracked it down to see the real enemies it would possibly point to all of us, our families, our extended families, our society, our ancestors etc. 

We are all guilty of either propagating or tolerating this age-old bias. Most people are unaware that such a bias can actually affect people in a deep way.

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography

A campaign like, ’Dark is Beautiful’ (by Women of Worth) has as its core mission the task of exposing the issue, educating people on its effects on society and encouraging those who have experienced trauma because of skin colour bias to regain their confidence and self-worth.

Since our petition on Change.org to ‘take down’ Emami’s discriminatory “Fair and Handsome” ad, many have asked us the question: Why not other brands? Why only Emami? Why only Shah Rukh Khan?” Are they the only ones who are guilty of ‘unfair advertising’ or responsible for skin colour discrimination? 

Not at all! If we had chosen some other brand’s ad, we still would have faced this question. Change has to begin somewhere. 

The word ‘petition’ actually means ‘request’ or ‘appeal’. By posting a petition we are actually requesting Emami and Shah Rukh Khan to ‘lead the change’. 

Design Credit: 6PM Designs

Several well-wishers of Mr. Khan are worried whether the campaign is aimed against him. I wish to reiterate that the campaign is against skin colour bias and not against Mr. Khan as any individual. 

We do want to see Emami’s discriminatory ad taken down. We do want King Khan to stop endorsing products that promote skin colour discrimination. Those are our requests.

People often argue that products are manufactured to meet a demand among the masses. The demand-and-supply model cannot be an excuse to override responsible business ethics. An issue as serious as skin-colour discrimination cannot be ignored. A healthy society will be on the look out to sort out its discriminatory practices. 

Today we are proud of having moved ahead in our perceptions of dowry, our society’s preference for male offspring and various other practices that reflect gender bias or discrimination. Why have we ignored skin-colour bias? The demand-and-supply model cannot be the easy answer to playing on the existing bias or insecurities of an entire group of people. We are and should be more responsible than that!

Our Journey
The Dark is Beautiful campaign seeks to address this complex issue in various ways. 

At the launch of the campaign in 2009, we hosted contests in painting, photography, short stories and poetry on the theme “Dark is Beautiful’ to give people a chance to express their views through art. We held a Dark is Beautiful Concert, Book Reading, and Art Gallery in collaboration with British Council, Chennai premises.

DisB Launch Concert Emceed by VJ Paloma Rao

Our media literacy module spreads awareness among school and college students that ‘beauty is beyond colour.’

Media Literacy Workshops for High School Students

Our blog series called SURVIVING DISCRIMINATION showcases stories of men and women who have overcome the discriminating effects of skin colour bias or of those who are still trying to figure a way out.

Our social media platforms gives people a place to share their thoughts on the issue vent, find support and feel understood.

www.facebook.com/darkisbeautiful

In March 2012, the campaign organized our first flash mob at Elliot’s Beach, Chennai and released a TVC featuring one of our brand ambassadors Anu Hasan. The event was chaired by Mr. Pratip Philip, Inspector General, Chennai Police. The flash mob’s slogan was “Why this colour-veri?” chosen after the famous Tamil hit song “Why this Kola-veri di?”

Anu Hasan was the first celebrity endorsement the campaign received
Why this Colour Veri? Expression Board

Over the past two years, celebrities like Anu Hasan, Nandita Das, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Vishaka Singh have lent their support. Their participation in the campaign has gained us visibility and media attention.

Nandita Das challenges skin colour bias

The petition, as you can see, is one among the various initiatives of the campaign. We are well aware that skin colour bias is so deep rooted in our society and that it has to be seen and addressed from different angles. 

Media Literacy and Responsible Advertising

However, having said all of the above we acknowledge the need for responsible advertising which, whether we like it or not, plays a huge role in shaping and influencing the way people think and act. If this were not true why would brands want to use stars to sell their products? 

From rural India to the most educated in urban India people look up to icons like Shah Rukh Khan.  We celebrate and esteem stars as role models. Therefore, it is only right that we require them to exercise a certain sense of responsibility towards their countrymen. They are not just entertainers. They are prominent voices in the nation that people from all walks of life stop and listen to. Our petition is simply this: Please say ‘no’ to skin colour bias! 

www.change.org/darkisbeautiful


Show us that you care!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kavitha is passionate about campaigning for issues concerning women, children and the underprivileged. She finds great fulfillment in helping women realize their dreams and live up to their full potential. She founded Women of Worth (WOW) with a vision to empower, train and motivate women to ‘Be the Best They can Be’. She is always looking for opportunities to create avenues for change that will make the world a better place for women.

A New Operating System

By Arpit Jacob | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

Arpit Jacob says we need to rethink the way we talk with kids about skin colour— at school, at home and in the media.

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography

I’m Arpit:

user experience designer
trekker/traveller
gadget geek
30 years old
and happily married.

During my school days in North India, a few of my classmates gave me other labels: kalia (black) and hapshi (negro).

These nicknames didn’t affect me as much as the preferential treatment that some of the teachers extended to fairer-skinned students for public speaking, plays/musicals and sports/games. This hugely impacted my self-image and self-worth. I retreated into a shell. 

I became reluctant to participate in school events and shy of the stage. Every year, for the parent-teacher meetings, I preferred that my dad— who is fair— come along with me, instead of my mom— who is dark.

Meanwhile, when I used to visit my relatives in Kerala, some of the older folks used to advise me not to play out in the sun, and to watch out lest I become as dark as my brother. 

Because of all the ridicule I faced, I concluded that being fair was superior to being dark. 

I felt I had to prove myself, so I worked extra hard, especially in sports. I became very self-conscious of how I looked and how I dressed at gatherings. I grew wary of people from the north. I guess it also made me very shy in approaching the opposite sex. 

In my late teens I tried using fairness cream, thinking it would make me more acceptable among my peers. 

After high school, I joined a college in South India, where there were more dark-skinned people.

Good friends were instrumental in helping me overcome my lack of self-esteem. The church and campus community where I lived also played a big role. Athletics were an outlet and a way to prove to my peers that I could excel despite the discrimination. 

I came to understand that when we focus on negative things people think or say about us, we can lose confidence and it affects our self-worth. This in turn affects our performance in life, making us feel less confident, which leads to insecurities. We have to break this cycle.

It happened gradually, but now I am totally comfortable with the way I look.

When I heard about the Dark is Beautiful campaign, I could relate to it so much, and I think this is an important issue to address in schools. We need to teach kids media literacy, to recognize how advertisements play on people’s insecurities.

School children need to hear that it doesn’t matter whether you are tall or short, dark or fair. Nothing or no one can put limits on what we can achieve. 

Focus on what you’re good at and don’t let discrimination bring you down. 

Consciously choose to believe and know that God created all people equal. It would be a very boring world if everyone had the same skin colour. Varying skin tones showcase the beauty of God’s creation. 

We all have unique gifts and talents. It is important to believe in yourself, identify what you’re good at, and go for it, irrespective of the colour of your skin!

 

Being Dark Or Black Is NOT The Matter At All

By Pooja | High School Student

A Book Report on The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
 
Kalla was a very smart boy. He was only 11 years old but he keeps saying that he is 17 or 18  or 19 years old. People would still believe him even when he say, “I am 20 years old,” because he had broad arms, strong muscles, and he was a tall boy. 
 
He lost his family when he was a 11 years old. His mother gave him a bangle when she was about to die. He was to ask for a woman called Ma Cho in the city. She was annoying lady. She kept Rajkumar’s name as Kalaa because he was dark. 
 
I have a friend; she is dark. Her mom and her family always annoy her and ask her, “why are you like this? See how others are!” “You are dark,” her mother would say.

One day we were having conversation at school about our parents and the problems we have. I was sad. I told her, “You have everything in life, but I don’t.” She replied, “My mom gives me things. She cares for me. She loves me; after all I’m her daughter. But sometimes she hurts me because I am dark. Sometimes she ignores me and says, “You’re too black. I never wanted a child black like you, but that is what God gave me.”
 
And I said to her, “I’m fair. But why? My mom doesn’t even want me. Why would she send me so far away from her. At least you have your parents with you, but I don’t. Being dark or black is NOT the matter at all.”
 
Every people have some kinds of problem in their life. Only thing we can do is pray and make God as our mom, dad, friend, and family. We can’t believe any one in our life. God is everything for us. Talk to Him and he will hep you and change your mom. 
 
I hate people calling others Kalaa or dark. When Ma Cho called Rajkumar, Kalaa, I didn’t like that at all. She should have called him handsome boy, because I feel dark guys are handsome. 
 
Same thing I told my friend too: “You are the most beautiful girl and you are valuable in front of God’s eyes. God has a purpose and plan for you. Not only for you but for all the people in this earth. He made us in his own image. We look like Him. We are the most beautiful creation – black, white, brown, yellow, tall, short, or whatever. He loves us so much.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I am Pooja, a student of 10th standard. I have 12 beautiful sisters and I unique brother. I love my mom and dad. I enjoy drawing, art and crafts, and designing clothes. I live in Chennai. I believe the  people in Chennai are dark and beautiful.