As a child of two immigrants from India, I am a mix between the vibrant and traditional culture of India and the extroverted culture of America. To me, India and America were worlds apart, often making me drift between the two whenever I visit India or return to America. I could not find any similarities between India and America, because to me (or at least to my parents), India was a mystical place filled with culture that I often took for granted.
Now that I'm older and have access to more information than the generations before me, I started to realize that Indian culture and Western culture shared some disturbing similarities.
I first noticed this similarity when I was watching a Bollywood movie. Many of the actors and actresses were fair skinned, even Kajol (who was very dark in the 90s), had somehow became lighter. I loved Kajol because her skin was like mine and she was considered beautiful, but now, it seemed that beauty in India was to be white.
A few years later, I learned about an actress named Amy Jackson. Amy Jackson was a white English actress who acted in Indian movies as an Indian. I was enraged and upset! Were real Indians too dark that they had to bring in a white girl all the way from England?
I could not believe my eyes and for a while, I comforted myself in my ignorance by thinking "America does not have culture like this" and I would have stayed ignorant if it had not been for an article in the Guardian by Kaitlyn Greenidge, who wrote about how a high school photographer had made her light skinned African American mother and made her look more "Italian", enraging Kaitlyn's mother. I realized that this is not just an Indian problem, but it is something that is rampant in both Western and South Asian culture. I wanted to know the reason behind this and so I opened up my laptop and started researching.
Back when European countries were colonizing and imperialism was a trend, the white Europeans often favored the lighter skinned people, which led to a division between the two skin tones, pushing a racist ideology that the lighter your skin was, the more beautiful you were.
Mahatma Gandhi himself had a disdain for black South Africans, referring to them as "dirty" and "like animals" to prove that the Indian South Africans were superior. I was appalled when I realized that Gandhi himself would exploit the plight of those darker than him for the benefit of those who were lighter.
Because of racism instilled by colonists, we have evolved into a system where we believe darker skin is ugly.
We put down people of darker skin because we believe they are ugly and we praise those of lighter skin because we believe they are beautiful. Indian families will shame their children if they choose to date a black person because black is not beautiful.
I myself used to think that black was unattractive, but now that I am older, I have realized that I was wrong: black is beautiful and colorism is holding back their beauty, not their skin color. I truly hope that one day, we live in a society where our skin color does not define our beauty.