Colorism in India

When my former professor, Dr. Sharon Bramlett-Solomon recently wrote an article in The Arizona Republic on prejudice against people of darker skin tone, this took me back to my hometown, Trivandrum, in South India. Dr. Solomon’s article focused on colorism, which she defines as “color prejudice that values and privileges light skin over darker skin tone,” and this often happens when people of the same ethnic group discriminates against one another.

Who can deny that colorism is non-existent in Indian society? In fully literate Kerala, girls with a darker skin tone still wait for a longer period for an arranged marriage or their parents shell out a larger piece of the dowry. The darker you are, the more gold you need.

Our prejudice against people of darker skin tone along the same ethnic lines is rampant and has been spread over generations. This is very much a part of the social realm of India where fair North Indians have for generations shown colorism against southern “Madrasis.” Films like “Black and White” were created with colorism as its focus and actors in Malayalam movies have depicted roles that display their weaknesses in dealing with color prejudice.

With eight Indian states having a poverty rate equivalent to much of the African sub-continent, add colorism and India gets to go still backward. For colorism to end, we need to show mutual respect for one another.