[Photo Source: Kav Lakshmi]
Living as an Indian American, I have experienced both cultures in-depth throughout my life. Because I live on this bridge between two cultures, I have noticed a number of differences and similarities between them. One similarity that has recently jumped out at me is the prominence of colorism.
When I was around 10 years old, I asked my mom why I was the member of our family stuck with the darkest skin. I asked her because I hated being the “dark” one. I hated looking in the mirror and knowing everyone who saw me would know I was brown, and there was no way around it.
It was only years later that I learned that I am not even all that dark-skinned; there are brown and black people who are far darker than me, and who often face actual discrimination in society because of the color of their skin.
I have also always believed media defines a lot of society, and this belief has only grown recently.Colorism Bring Back My Insecurities About my Skin Tone]
My inspiration for this article sparked when my Twitter feed erupted after the casting announcement for a popular book series was released. The majority of my feed was celebrating my announcement, extremely pleased with the cast members selected to play their favorite characters.
But there was a small section of my feed that was not so pleased. This group of people, primarily black and brown people, pointed out how a character that is canonically described as dark-skinned was being played by a light-skinned actor.
Regardless, there is a very specific scene in that movie where Shivudu, the main character, is having his first real moment with his love interest, Avanthika. In this scene, the two are by a waterfall, and Avanthika gets washed by the waterfall which is so powerful that it not only washes off any dirt and grime on her, but it lightens her skin color.
While Shivudu is interested in Avanthika prior to this moment, her character is only portrayed as truly beautiful and attractive after she becomes lighter-skinned.
Often, in Hollywood, I just don’t see dark-skinned actors getting cast in roles, especially not in main roles. Of course, there are a few prominent darker-skinned actors, such as Lupita Nyong’o, but these actors are far and few compared to their lighter-skinned counterparts.[Read More: Enough is Enough: BGM Responds to Colorism Blackface Problem in ‘Kala Shah Kala’]
In Bollywood, however, I notice this issue affects women far more than men. That’s not to say that Bollywood is flooded with dark-skinned male actors, but the female love interest always ne to be light-skinned.
I believe colorism is leading to this discriminatory casting, but I also believe these media portrayals further colorism. If light-skinned actors are often the only actors we see, then that will be our idea of beauty.
Colorism leads to companies like Fair Lovely, a company that sells products that hypothetically “lighten your skin,” having a giant market in India. Colorism leads to people bleaching their skin to fit an arbitrary idea of beauty. It leads to discrimination against dark-skinned people in both India and America.