So get ready to make some more noise: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/5918-dark-is-beautiful
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?
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.
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?
|Click here to sign the petition against unfair advertising|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder and Director of WOW
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!
|Click here to see petition|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Rebekah Paul | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner
If only life were as easy as Jimmy Kimmel’s “Meet My Best Unfriend” Facebook Challenge:
“You are dark but photogenic.” – Unfriend
“Your sister is lighter skinned than you, no?” – Unfriend
“You’d have been a great looking guy. Tall, dark and handsome.” – Seriously? Unfriend
“Karuppi” – Unfriend AND Report Abuse
“We’ve written wheat-ish as your complexion on the marriage bureau form” – UNFRIEND… wait… what? I can’t really unfriend my parents now, can I?
I’ve been called it all.
From being verbally assaulted by random strangers to compliments packaged badly by well meaning friends and family.
I’ve heard it all.
From arguments on colonialism and the perpetuation of their ideologies to how racism is worldwide.
After years of playing the shepherd or the Orient king bearing gold in school and church nativity plays, after too many years of hoping that I’d get picked to be an angel instead, I guess I figured out, even as a child, that sports might be my way out.
I believe I was fortunate to have studied in a school where the teacher’s discrimination started and ended at choosing the angels in the nativity play. I believe I was fortunate to have close friends who couldn’t think along the lines of skin colour, at least not in derogatory terms. I believe I was fortunate enough to be averagely good in sports and couldn’t find time for much else.
I also believe I was extremely fortunate to have parents who made light of my skin colour apprehensions if any and edged me on to give my best in whatever I did. My parents taught me to take life with a pinch of salt. “Be a cheerful child!” my father tells me to this day, despite me being a grown woman.
Life changed as I grew. I wasn’t so safe anymore from rude, brash comments and discrimination. I grew more resilient and learnt the art of ‘ignoring’.
I grew up seldom allowing the opinion and biases of others get in the way of my own expectations.
And then on occasion I’d decide to put up a fight at the cost of being called ridiculous and irrational. During final year at college, for our hostel’s nativity play, we fought it out and said ‘include dark angels’. And there we were, a bunch of us who had seldom got an opportunity before, all dressed up as angels.
On a good day I’d like to think that we were not just being overly-sensitive kids. Instead I’d like to think that that night we inspired our juniors to not be limited by people’s biases.
On a not so good day, I am reminded of all my lost opportunities and the times I have chosen to keep quiet. Times I have been over-looked ever so subtly that to call it unfair would seem criminal.
If I had ever cared to count, I’m certain that in my lifetime, I’d have heard ‘you’re so talented!’ so many more times than ‘you’re beautiful!’ And many times, being called talented was not for actual talent itself but rather as a compensation for my misfortune of dark skin.
Marriage seemed to be a daunting task for even my otherwise level-headed parents. But they were spared the agony of having to hear people ask them “exactly how wheat-ish is she?” (True story! -happened to a cousin).
My husband makes me feel beautiful every day. Not because my self-worth depends on it or because he feels the need to pay penance for all the bad things people have said/say about my dark skin.
But he genuinely, honestly, sees me as beautiful just as my parents and so many of my friends and family do.
I’m glad I did not let skin colour define me. And I’m glad that we have finally come to a time when people are not disregarding this as an issue too trivial for discussion, but are instead speaking up about the unseen and untold damages it causes in children and adults.
I look forward to a time when the word ‘beautiful’ is all encompassing – all skin tones, body types, inside and out.
In the meanwhile you can count on me to celebrate my shade of beautiful!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebekah lives and works in Chennai. She enjoys baking, paper crafting and blogs at goldfieldandsunshine.
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!
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.
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!
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.