While protests for #BlackLivesMatter rage in the US, people all across the world have been standing in solidarity with the movement. With social media becoming the go-to platform for being vocal on the issue, everyone, from Bollywood celebrities to common people with access, is jumping the bandwagon to join this Twitter trend!
But it all seems vehemently hypocritical when the colorism that is ingrained in our desi minds and our inherent belief that ‘fair is lovely’ reflects on our every action. Many have said that the colonization of India led to people becoming more discriminating towards the dark skin, which raises the question – shouldn’t it have been the other way round?
Also, why were so many Indians quick to speak out about the murder of black people in America but are silent when it comes to the issues of communal and state violence against lower-caste communities in the country. In the last several months, mob lynchings, attacks on students, and incidents of Islamophobia, queerphobia, and police brutality have been rampant across India. Incredibly graphic, chilling videos of these have circulated across all mediums with the same fervor as Floyd’s – but they were never met with the same pain.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has sure opened the door on conversations about race, skin color, and privilege, and not only in America. People around the world are seeing this as an opportunity to talk about problems within their home countries.
In India, the movement has opened up a conversation about discrimination on the basis of skin color, with many calling for its citizens to confront biases. And that includes calling out celebrities who have supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement while simultaneously profiting off and endorsing skin-lightening products.
Many called out popular actors like Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor, Disha Patni etc., for speaking out against racism in the US but advertise whitening creams. Actor Abhay Deol criticized his colleagues in the industry, saying, “woke Indian celebrities” have been speaking out on #BlackLivesMatters but failing to speak up on similar instances within the country. He even urged celebrities and the middle class to take a stand against racism in the US to ‘see how it manifests in their own backyard’ and to ‘call out systemic problems in your own country.’
Bollywood is famous for “brown facing” – the act of darkening a star’s skin tone when playing characters from disadvantaged backgrounds, while lighter skin tones are preferred for lead roles. Over the years, several dark-skinned actors have spoken out about getting sidelined for big roles because of the color of their skin.
And where do we even start while talking about all the matrimonial adds and India’s obsession with fair skin? For ages, society has been partial towards men and women who have a darker skin tone. A perfect life from perfect skin – but only for those of the right shade – is the message and mindset that’s being passed down.
This needs to end. While sympathizing with the cause of #BlackLivesMatter we need to take a closer look at ourselves and raise our voice to change the ideas ingrained in our minds that only fair people are beautiful. The bais runs way too deep and needs to be addressed at every level.
Be a part of this conversation and speak up against any bais of color. Within the South Asian community, in particular, we have a duty to dismantle the idea of the model minority and tackle the anti-blackness which is deeply ingrained within our community. The time to change is now!
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.