A a skin-lightening commercial that recently aired in Thailand about how whiteness is the only thing you need to “win” highlighted an interesting (but not unique) challenge darker-hued black women fact when dating minorities–that includes African American, Hispanic and just about every Asian culture: Colorism. It’s the reason that, while I celebrate these unions when they happen, I often give words of caution. Asian countries are having major struggles with “light vs. dark,” and I feel like it’s getting worse, not better. The skin lightening industries in Korea, India, China and Japan are selling these products quicker than they can make them.
From what I understand, the colorism has a lot to do with class. Poorer people who work in the fields are darker, and people who have the luxury of staying indoors and not being tanned by the sun are perceived as more wealthy and affluent. Sounds a lot like house negroes vs. field negroes, doesn’t it? The only difference is that it’s not a legacy of slavery. It’s a legacy of colonialism.
One Huffington Post commenter perhaps encapsulated this whole thing:
u.s. racial politics don’t exist in thailand. their standards for beauty are different, too. its a poor, but developing country with a growing middle class. pale skin is considered to be a marker for wealth – because its a clear marker you don’t have to work outside to make a living. ever wonder why so many of the korean, japanese, and chinese models you see are so pale, when if they even got a little bit of sun they’d be pretty well bronze? that’s why. japanese women have nickname for it that roughly translates to marshmellow skin, and many wear gloves to the elbow when they drive to stay pale…almost zero people of african descent in these countries and little to no history along those lines to say that thai blackface means the same as it being done here. its still a rough standard to uphold, but immediately linking it to american political sensibilities and racial political history is way off target. we’re not the center of universe.
And while every race and culture idealizes itself, I often sit in wonder how many Asians idealize a look that is virtually genetically impossible unless there is a European mixture.
Exhibit A: Anime
With all the colorism happening in the black community, it’s like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.