Do the shades really matter?

Recently, I went to watch a Tollywood (Telugu) movie with my brother and his friends. It was almost an hour’s drive from my brother’s place. We grabbed a bite from a restaurant on our way to the movies. When we were eating, I had a crazy and frustrating conversation with my brother’s friend. Though I did not know what to make of it, my idea that society is filled with hypocrites was just reinforced. Let’s call my brother’s friend “A.”

A: Akka (sister) did you hear about this girl called Nina Davaluri (Miss America-2014).

R: Yes, what about her?

A: You know American people are calling her terrorist and Al Qaeda agent, and Indian people are saying that she is ugly because she is dark.

R: I heard about it. I think it’s bad that they are making a big deal of her being dark. She is beautiful.

A: However, Indian culture has been like that for centuries. It is nothing new. Light skin is beautiful.

R: What!!! (Even after I said this and made a disgusted face he did not realize, and he went on)

A: The problem is we think Americans are all open minded and educated, but they are racist. How can they call her a terrorist?

R: Not all Americans are educated. A lot of them are ignorant. Most of them do not think outside of America because they are never told that they need to go to another country to make a living like us. To them, everyone who is not Asian, White, Black, or Hispanic is a terrorist. Most of them probably do not even know the capital of India.

A: That is just racist, they cannot call her terrorist.

R: I know, but all Americans are not like that. It is more ignorance than racism. They are very friendly people.

A: They make a big deal when we discriminate between light and dark skin, but they do the same.

R: The two are different issues, and we cannot compare them. Americans who are saying bad things are just being ignorant. That can be changed if they are educated, but Indians are judgmental with skin color. I think dark or light skin everyone is beautiful.

A: That is our culture. It has been like that forever and will be there forever. There is nothing wrong with it. When Americans are being racist, what is wrong with us discriminating?

After listening to that I just gave up because I realized that there is no point in saying anything. It was an unreasonable argument. I felt like “A” is offended by American ignorance when he does not want to change Indian attitudes. Also since when did American behavior become a standard that we measure ourselves to?

During the whole Miss America 2014 controversy, I was enraged initially but then realized that these racist comments are coming from the people who are uninformed. I think America actually set a very good example for all those Indian girls who were told they were ugly because they are dark. I think this role model is a real one unlike the role model the fairness cream ads and Bollywood stars are setting for the young Indian girls.

Why are we using America as an example to justify our bad traditions? Why are we not following the good examples they have set? The answer is we have selective learning. We only learn what is comfortable and convenient for us.

Even today Indian girls, (not all but some,) with dark skin are looked down on in our own country. We are told not to go out in the sun for the fear of getting darker.  I was one of those girls, and I remember how I was told by my own grandmother that I did not look as good as my cousins. My mom tried to counteract these hurtful statements by saying that I have beautiful features. I looked in mirror and was always happy with what I saw. Therefore, it did not really matter what others thought of me. I know for some girls that may not be easy.

Sometime ago, I had a conversation with my brother on the same topic. We are south Indians, so we are naturally dark. My brother is actually darker than me because he was always outside playing cricket. It upsets him that he is dark.

Brother:  I wish I could have a fair skin.

R: We are in USA. No one cares what shade your skin is here, and so why are you still worrying? Every skin color is beautiful. We are lucky that we got to come here and not deal with dark skin= ugly attitude any more. Why are you still holding yourself up to a standard that drags you down? You need to be confident and comfortable in your skin.

Brother: Even so, we are Indians. No matter where we go, we should still follow our culture.

It made me frustrated because it is just an example of how we Indians want to stick to our traditions even when we know they are not right, and even when they cause pain. I love traditions too, but just not the ones that create discrimination. I think it is okay to stick to our roots and be who we are, but some of the evils need to be thrown out. We don’t have to defend the bad ones just because they were a part of our culture for thousands of years.

Our ancestors created discrimination based on skin shade thousands of years ago, and today we are eating that bitter tasting fruit. Let us learn from their mistakes and sow a seed that will yield sweeter fruits for our future generations. We can think differently and bring a change. This change will prevent our granddaughters from going through the wrath of the skin shade scale that we had to go through.

We are the next generation. Our actions today will bear fruits tomorrow. The glaring question now is what are we going to do to instigate thinking beyond the criteria that are used to create discrimination? How can we change the attitudes of people so we can look beyond what is on the outside?

Please comment down below with your suggestions/ideas. Let us brain storm and bring a change in the attitudes.


P.S I posted a quick update on this post check it here

Read my other posts on acceptance and judgement here and here

Leave a comment


  1. “I felt like “A” is offended by American ignorance when he does not want to change Indian attitudes.” – totally agree, I have noticed that a lot. It is easier for people to point the finger rather than look within.

    • For some reason your comment went into the spam pile again. I had to unspam it. Akismet (wordpress spam protection) is getting confused between spam and ham again.
      We were told when we were young if you point a finger at someone four other fingers point at you.

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