Calling someone beautiful is awesome but for most Asians, having a fair skin is often the first thing people will see about a person. Colourism as coined by Alice Walker in 1982 is something that unavoidable in Asia as the light skin you have, the more opportunities and privilege become available to you. In fact, fair skin has always been cherished in some Asian cultures because colourism exists more than just a status symbol especially in Chinese culture in which fair skin is synonymous with nobility and wealth.
Based on research conducted not long ago, China’s obsession for a fair (or white) skin may stem from genetic mutation about 15,000 years ago. A natural skin tones that clearly indicate a better health, nutrition, and lifestyle are still viewed as unattractive because a ‘corpse-pale’ skin which has been popularised by most of the K-POP groups to internalise the notions of what make one very attractive.
There are lots of skin whitening, brightening or lightening products in Asian market. The safe-for-use skin products on the racks can be quite problematic as some products can have harsh ingredients such as hydroquinone, and tretinoin which can lead to health concerns such as permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage, and mercury poisoning among others. This thriving ’bleaching syndrome’ market has now has more than US$400 millions dollars annually. The shocking truth is that China cosmetic market is now the second largest in the world, generating more than US$25 billion in 2013.
Skin tone has became a signifier of class and it has always dominating the top of the hierarchy. The ‘Bleaching Syndrome’ has gone far beyond skin colour which has made one to question their hair texture and colour, speech, marital choices, and dress style. Even a Thailand advertisement for skin lightening pills put a controversial tagline ‘white makes you a winner’ which raised outrage about those who have tanned or darker skin tone. The shade of one’s skin has became an essential part of one’s identity but that does not mean it should be part of measurement to judge one’s lifestyle. Though ancient Chinese proverbs reiterate the concept of having fair skin as perfection which can hide several flaws, I still have the thoughts that having fair skin means one has to spend lots of money to maintain the fairness of the skin and some might have reached to the extent of using product that can produce desired result within 1 minute.
I am not saying that darker skin is bad because I find having a darker skin is actually sexy and exotic. In 2017, Aranya Johar published her own ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty’ on Youtube which has gone viral, reaching more than 1.5 million viewers all over the world in its first day alone. I admit that I have fair skin but that means there is a need to maintain my skin which is enough to protect myself from pigmentations and other skin problems. There was one time where I heard this fair skin lady downgraded other people who have darker skin tone, in which, I found unacceptable. Why must we judge a person from skin colour?
What I am trying to say here is to always be proud of what you have and have been given. One may have darker skin tone but that does not mean he or she cannot become successful. What do you think about having ‘colourism’ in your culture? Share what you have in mind in the comment box below. I am more than happy to know.