Once a girl whispered to the mirror, “Hey! I am so dark.” The mirror reiterated. But, the mind said something different, “So what! You are intelligent.” The mind is not uttering something unusual. It’s just echoing the words of our society, where we consider intelligence as a compensation for white skin. You might have heard people saying, “S/he is not fair, ATLEAST s/he is good with her or his academics.”  Be it energy, Bhagwan, Allah, Jesus or whosoever created us, did an experiment with a pigment called Melanin. This pigment became the determining factor for our skin, eye and hair colour. But the one, who gave us birth, did not distribute it equally. Apparently the ones who got more should have been privileged but the case became quite the opposite.  Our creator never knew the consequences of this unequal distribution.  Well, Indians must know it, as they are the perpetrators of extreme racism. One just needs to pick up a Sunday newspaper and read the matrimonial advertisements, which demand that a bride should be FAIR and LOVELY.

The concept of racism emerged during the 19th century, when scholars started assuming that humans can be divided into several races, which can be arranged hierarchically as they are on different levels of evolution. The Frenchman Comte Arthur de Gobineau divided humanity into three races-white, yellow and black, placing the white on the top of the ladder and black in the bottom. By moulding the views of theorists such as Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, new phenomena of Social Darwinism emerged emphasizing the concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest in human society. These pseudo- scientific concepts made it the birthright of the Whites to exploit the so called Blacks. The Dutch who invaded South Africa in the 16th century, named the indigenous tribes as Hottentots (Khoikhoi) and Bushman (San). Both these terms conferred a sub-human status to these people. A large number of Africans were sailed through the Atlantic to the New World and sold as slaves to work on plantations. The colonised subjects of the European powers were thought to be uncivilized and barbarous, who could not govern themselves. In all these examples we see a common pattern, which is judgement based on one’s physical appearance. Barring people from their natural rights only on the basis of those physical features, which seem peculiar to one set of people, was the trend till the 20th century.

Indian television is full of advertisements that endorse skin whitening creams, soaps and talcum powders, pills and what not. Some brands even link fairness to a person’s career achievements. The Bollywood role models of this generation act as the brand ambassadors of such products, not contemplating about its serious consequences. Equating fairness with beauty has become so commonsensical that we have forgotten to question such nonsense. Indian children grow up in an atmosphere where these absurd concepts are regularly being discussed and acted upon, which leads to racism’s perpetuation in our society. The notion of fairness has penetrated the social media too. The Instagram generation never uploads a picture without using colour lightening and brightening filters. We might contend ourselves by thinking that it is a colonial legacy. Well, even if it is, then why are we carrying it forward, even after knowing that it is a farce? Skin colour is NOT a marker of a person’s physical or mental abilities, I repeat it never was and never will be of any importance.

The skin is just a cloth to cover our flesh. The cloth might be of any colour, but the material inside is exactly the same among all of us. Talking about the soul might seem a bit philosophical so let us ponder upon much easier stuff. When we see a childhood picture of ourselves, we exclaim, “Oh! This is me”. But if we compare our outer appearance to that innocent “me”, we can surely make out the difference that time has created over so many years. So, do we ever wonder that who is this “me”; we are talking about, when we see our old picture? Means there is something unchangeable inside us and that is what we really are and not this outer skin covering. Even after growing old when our skin will be saggy, that same “me” will remain inside. Life is all about knowing this inside “me” of ourselves and of others, rather than judging people on the basis of those age old parameters. It is high time that we stop believing and perpetuating such myths. And as they say, “True people fall in love with souls, not faces”.

Kriti Tripathi