Perpetuating colorism is toxic for the 2nd generation

Perpetuating colorism is toxic for the 2nd generation

Perpetuating colorism is toxic for the 2nd generation
May 29
08:18 2018

Growing up, I would hear my grandmother call me out on my skin color. She would say I am rather dark, so I should limit my time out in the sun. My best friend was fair skinned and skinny with long hair. My grandma would say I should be more like her because she is pretty while insinuating that she wouldn’t have any trouble finding a husband in the future.

I can’t blame my grandmother for her comments, though, as it’s all she has ever known. This is the same mindset shared by her mother, who was taught the same things in her family for many generations. In our South Asian household, the elders hold aspects of “white excellence” as the standard bearing for success, and anything else is less.

It is the reason why colorism — or discrimination against people of darker skin — is such a controversial topic in South Asian culture and why education in fields of science and technology are highly regarded. This mindset operates under the idea that people in power have the best lifestyles, and we must all strive to be like them.

This ideology stems from years of imperialism, in particular when the British Raj ruled over India for more than 90 years. Indians are known for resisting the rhetoric the British spewed and making sure the influences of their own culture remained intact, but the British influence had a greater impact than they expected.

While several decades have passed since India gained its independence, this mindset is still common among many Indian people. For people still living in South Asia — or any country that was once ruled by a European power — the same rhetoric is passed down to the next generation.

I was lucky enough that in my case, my mother was born in the U.S., so the toxic mentality of idolizing these regressive ideas did not resonate with her. But for many immigrant families, this is a problem the second generation continues to struggle with.

Minority communities must recognize that colorism has a negative lasting impact that doesn’t stop with them.

It creates discrimination within our own communities and invalidates young people’s dreams. Colorism promotes racism, which has the potential outcome of erasing our identity as Indian people. All the years of pretending to be something we are not and abandoning our culture needs to end now. Without putting a stop to the perpetuation of colorism, we cannot continue grow as a community.

We need a new generation where tradition and culture is celebrated for what it symbolizes, not idolizes.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Ridah Syed

Ridah Syed

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1 Comment

  1. Professor Tharps
    Professor Tharps May 31, 10:07

    Thank you for sharing this important essay!

    Reply to this comment

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