“Racism” within one race
Today my pops convinced my brother and I to accompany him to visit my great aunt and uncle, whom we haven’t seen for a very long time. We were sitting in their living room, that I swear hasn’t changed one bit in the past ten years, when my great aunt busts out a picture of this chick I’ve never met who recently got married. Of course, I had to look interested as she went on about what this girl’s husband does and how she’s the manager of … who cares. So back to this picture, as it makes its way around the room, my great aunt goes “isn’t she so pretty?” (in Urdu of course). No one really says anything and instead of tucking the picture away like she should have done, she goes on to say “aur woh gori bi hain”. This translates to: and she’s white too.
Now, of course, this does not mean that the girl was white, as in caucasian (because then this would have been a whole other issue), it meant she was ‘fair’. Oh, how I cringe everytime I hear that damn word. I’ve grown up hearing extended family, adults/elders in the Desi community, and once even my own grandma use similar choice of words, as my great aunt did in this particular story. When I was younger, it used to affect me. I remember complaining to my mom and feeling out of place, cause at that point, I was becoming more and more aware of my own physical appearance and the fact that I did not quite fit into this mold of Pakistani perfection that has been engraved in the stubborn heads of older generations, and sometimes even seeps into our own current generation.
My mom never let me get too upset though, which must have been difficult, since I have a tendency to overreact over umm, everything. But anyway, she always tells me to take whatever these traditional curmudgeons have to say with a grain of salt. I did, for a very long time, now I have enough grains of salt to last me every meal of my life. And, I’m fed up. There are so many things that make me proud of being Pakistani/Indian, but this one issue really gets my blood boiling. People tell me: “you can’t change the way the older generation thinks” and to a certain extent, they are right. But, the problem is when their mentality rubs off onto the younger generations. Because people think they can’t change this mentality makes it harder for people to really understand that this is a problem in our society.
I have been to a handful of Pakistani weddings growing up, and I have seen random ‘aunties’ come up to girls because they are interested in them for their sons. Guess what all of these girls have in common? Yup, they are ‘fair’. I am by no means saying that I want these same aunties to come up to me and other darker girls and suggest that we meet their loser sons. I’m just saying that this hurts and it is something people need to be aware of and not go along with. Aunties need to be more holistic and ‘fair’ in their judgement of girls, pun fully intended. And all desi girls need to be aware of the fact that older women classify girls into categories. Paper perfect and of course picture perfect makes the ideal life partner. And most people aren’t even doing a damn thing to defeat this awful misconception of beauty.
Again, I am NOT desperate for marriage proposals to come flying my way. Nuh uh.
Now there is also this disgusting craze over skin lightening creams that are taking the South Asian countries by storm. Celebrities and marketers have teamed together to film a short commercial series highlighting the benefits of “improving” your complexion. By using these ingenious creams, not only will you get the better man, but you will get the better job and the better life. Damn, made me think I could even get into heaven if I started using Ponds Whitening Cream.
Although I have lost respect for the celebrities who have participated in such stupid ad campaigns (yes, call it overreacting), there are other darker celebrities who are making it BIG abroad and in the US: Bipasha Basu, Lakshmi Menon, and Padma Lakshmi, to name a few. They are overstepping the boundaries our culture has defined for beauty and power and kicking ass while doing so.
So yea, I apologize for this rant. Actually, this is my tumblr, so I take back my apology. For a long time now I’ve kept this sort of stuff inside, but screw it. This is a new world, we’ve come a long way, but damn, we still got a long way to go. and it starts with awareness, be aware of what people are saying. Even if you don’t quite relate to what I’m talking about, at least be aware. Maybe one day, you’ll be able to say something or do something about it.