While I hardly pay attention to beauty pageants, this year’s Miss America caught my attention; not because an Indian-American won the crown, but because of the racist comments on Twitter, that ensued soon after her win. No, I wasn’t offended in the least; only amused by the sheer ignorance and idiocy of some of the comments I read.
But that’s not why I am writing this.
The winner, Nina Davuluri, sadly, most likely wouldn’t have had a chance, if this contest were to be held in India.
The quote from this article, nails it – “India’s obsession with fair skin has been well-documented. This isn’t a bias that Indians are in any hurry to hide. Skin-lightening creams are a $470 million business in the country. Even superstars like Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone endorse them. Bollywood’s highest-paid actresses all fall on the Caucasian end of the skin spectrum when compared to Nina Davuluri, and it’s been pointed out that she would’ve likely never made it past the initial screening round in the Femina Miss India pageant.”
India became free from the British rule in 1947, but she still is emotionally enslaved to the notion of the supposed supremacy of a “lighter” skin color. We can see the undertones of this idea being perpetuated through Indian movies, conversations and advertisements.
The ugly caste system also emboldens this perception. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of non-Hindus from India who are not part of the caste system, we’ve all been either exposed to, or have been influenced by this ugly social conditioning, one way or the other.
So, dear Indian-Americans and the Indian descendants living in the United States: Before we get all touchy about some ignorant comments on Twitter, let’s begin to clean our house (mindset) first. Change will not happen overnight. Let’s instill in our children, that the only color that matters, and the one that unites humanity, is the color of the blood that flows through ours veins -– which is the same, whether a person is a Brahmin or a Dalit, Christian or Muslim; or if she is from Addis Ababa, Beijing, Chennai or Dublin. We have the power to not let the caste system or the emotional remnants of colonialism influence our thinking.