Xenophobia 

As per the Urban Dictionary: The term ‘xenophobia’ is typically used to denote a phobic attitude towards foreigners or strangers, or even of the unknown. Racism in general is described as a form of xenophobia.

It is pretty unfortunate that in our culturally diverse country, discrimination on basis of skin colour is pretty rampant. Right from the day a child is born you can hear remarks, drawing comparisons based on child’s skin colour even from the immediate family and well meaning friends. 

Comparison of skin tone with the parents and siblings finds place in everyday conversations. From encouraging a child to drink milk saying “You should finish off the glass if you want a milky white complexion” to insisting that the child avoids drinking tea or coffee for the fear of their skin tone turning dark, to encouraging children (particularly girls) to stay indoors for the fear of getting tanned in the sun. The list of the racist remarks that have made their way in our day to day life, that we’ve come to accept as pretty normal is disturbingly long.

Things get worse when siblings are compared for their skin colour and the child of the darker complexion is shunned for the same overlooking his/her merits. These (seemingly) harmless remarks can go a long way in infusing inferiority complex in young minds that can sometimes bloom into ugly sibling rivalries and in some extreme scenarios even into hatred.

I have always felt disturbed by racism, even during my childhood when my skin colour was used as the yardstick of telling my cousins how good a girl I was, owing to my fairness. I could see the pain, the envy for me in my cousin’s eyes. I’d often try to stop my aunts and grandma from discriminating but was always asked to hush up in the name of obedience or respect. 

Even as a little girl, repeated references of the fairytale ‘Snow White’ stating that she was loved by all because she was white as snow, didn’t seem quite right to me. At that tender age, I had no knowledge about racism or xenophobia, but one thing was clear in my mind that God made us all and like a rose is a rose irrespective of its colour, why aren’t we all humans treated just the same irrespective of our complexion.

When I grew up and learnt how the dynamics of variety of skin colours works even in the same race, in my heart I pledged to not let my child grow up believing that his/ her being fair, dusky or bronze skinned mattered one bit.


Today, as a parent of a daughter, in a relatively open-minded era, I can still feel the racists beliefs exist. Though there is often a lot of noise about fairness creams and their insensitive marketing but in day to day life, racism thrives in encoursging children to eat well to get fairer, befriend those who are fair and good looking (it happens even in my kid’s class), looking for a ‘milk white’ fair girl for marriage and the list is endless.

If you think the children with lighter skin tone are in a win-win situation, think again. Besides growing vain, arrogant and over-confident (due to unfair advantage at many points in life) they’re forever conscious about not getting tanned/darker. They limit their outdoor ventures, avoid playing sports outdoors and when they do play often bully others with their racist remarks.

Hatred and despise can never allow love, friendship and goodwill to bloom. The pain, the burden of these prejudices is to be borne by everyone. So before you call a child ‘chocolate coloured’ remember, there is nothing sweet in that remark. Before you stop your child from playing outdoors for the fear of tanning, remember you might be stopping the next Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or Federer from reaching their potential.

I am determined to teach Pari how to look at the world she lives in beyond the colour of the skin. Though her impressionable mind often gets carried away, but I sincerely believe that if we address racism right from childhood, our society can see a happier, fairer (pun unintended) confident generation rise in the years to come. The change won’t come until those in the advantageous position of having lighter skin tones realize the damage their discriminatory ways are doing to mankind.

Have you ever been discriminated on basis of your skin colour in your life?

* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.

Please find my other posts here.

** As mentioned earlier, my computer is out of order, please bear with ( any) errors in my posts as they are being typed on the WordPress app.

29 thoughts on “Xenophobia 

    1. True that Dixita. Being ‘milk white’ is the benchmark of acceptable complexion in the Indian society declining with as we inch towards darker skin tones.
      It is a sad scheme of events but everyone of us has to help bring the change.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey , I was just trying to conjure a story with that headline and I came across your post so had to read your take! A very apt topic to be taken up when it comes to parenting. Though I am of a fairer complexion and so is my son but I do feel that the idea of not discriminating should be sown right at the time of childhood. I realize now that ive never consciously made an effort with my kid but now I would!

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    1. I’m glad you could relate to my line of thought. Yes, the kids need to understand this crucial bit right from childhood to help them grow up to be open-minded, kind human beings who are driven by prejudices.

      Like

  2. I applaud you for teaching your daughter to look at the world with accepting eyes. Character counts. While I haven’t been a victim of racism, as an immigrant in the U.S. I’ve felt something close to profiling at times. At least until people got to know me better. It all goes back to attitudes from childhood. Kids remember and copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been at the receiving end of racist remarks in public in a number of countries that I have travelled and of subtle racist comments even at workplace outside Asia so I can imagine how much it hurts and how difficult carrying on with normal life in such scenarios can get at times.
      Thank you dear for your encouraging words 🙂

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    1. Racism seems to have seeped deep into our psyche, our values and day-to-day life that we have grown to accept it as the way of life. This is why talking more often about it can help people realise the damage such racist remarks can have on people at the receiving end.
      Thank you Inderpreet 🙂

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  3. Oh I didn’t know this myth of drink milk and you will be white existed in India too. When I was pregnant one of my Chinese colleagues told me this, and said her mother told her she was not fair because she (the mum) ate a lot of soy sauce when she was pregnant. This from a person who is fairer than me (and I’m on the fair side of the Indian skin tone). It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. I said, “Oh then the whole of Africa would change colour if they started drinking more milk.”

    My sister was often negatively compared to me because of her skin colour. It made me hyper sensitive to the issue. But when I noticed that Mimi’s skin colour is darker than Nene’s I was a bit sad because I know life is easier with fairer skin and also that the two will inevitably be compared, more so in Hong Kong. Luckily most of the comments are in their own language so I can’t always tell, and Mimi definitely can’t. Also she has curly hair which is considered attractive to the older generation.

    I find that Mimi has a hard time making friends. It may be her personality, but I also think that kids gravitate to the so called ‘better looking’ kids. There’s another Indian girl who’s of a similar skin tone as Mimi, but she’s super thick skinned and confident. Mimi I think is more sensitive to rejection. A bit heartbreaking really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is heartbreaking because in India having a dusky complexion is your ticket to social exclusion and kids aren’t spared either. And it’s not just the adults but the kids too echo the sentiments harboured by the adults in the family. In Pari’s class, not only girls but boys with darker skin tones too find it tough to make friends.

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  4. There is current issue here in the Philippines related to your post, Era. A celebrity’s daughter (only 6-month old) is being tagged as ‘negra’. That’s a rude term Filipinos have for dark-colored girls/women. The celebrity mom who is also a morena (the acceptable term for a bit dark-colored skin) get back to her baby’s basher saying brown is really the skin color of Filipinos (which is definitely true.)

    Still, like what you said. It is quite unfortunate because there are still people (I would say stupid people) who looks just within one’s skin color. It’s too old custom for me. And it’s indeed bad. I am considered fortunate, perhaps I am fair and not morena, but that doesn;t make me a better person that the morena ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. elixired

    I know of many such incidences where mothers today teach and promote skin color bias in their child. That indeed is very shameful! I am sure Pari is going to be a very compassionate adult with lot of values. Your posts clearly reflects her future soul 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Racist ideologies have been ingrained in our being since the day of our birth and we have grown so used to these ideologies that we often miss the harm they do to others. So glad you echo my thoughts. Thank you dear 🙂

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  6. I don’t know about discrimination based on colour. I haven’t really experienced it in school or at home.
    But there was always this weird thing in school: the character who used to play Mother Mary in the school play had to be fair and had to have long hair. I didn’t fulfill either criteria to the satisfaction of my teachers, so I ended up being the angel 😀

    I’ve heard of the tanned skin thing though. It’s just so dumb: One can put sunscreen and step out of the house, no? I wish people would grow beyond these stupid points of discrimination and work on being better individuals first!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It happens all the time in Pari’s school too. The fairest girl in the class always gets to play the prime role and is always positioned in the prime position for any dance or play. Though the reason for doing so might be stated as anything else but everyone knows well that skin tone is the real basis.
      I agree with you, this criteria of judging and classifying people based on skin colour is simply ridiculous.

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  7. Oh My! I am surprised that even in Pari’s class such things like ‘befriend those who are fair and good looking’ exists! Its just too much. Such a negative impact on the kids!
    But yes, I have faced this as I am dusky colored (not in my school though). Few even told me to use fairness creams because my mom, mausi were fairer than me and said that “I can get back the color”. Duh! The way they used to talk was as if I have purposely darkened my face 😀 I found those comments funny and to be honest I never bothered and was very happy with my skin color!
    But the sad part is I have seen many girls/ guys being ashamed of their own color. So I guess the first step is to be confident about yourself and only then we can fight with others about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. RamyaRao

    Every time you hit a chord with me. I have been subjected to it. I try to raise above it. But somewhere after repeated taunting and comment passing I think I have that inferior complex. And my mom, ain’t like you. She has to ruin the moment by praising a fair looking girl and compare her with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. that laundry quote is brilliant. It’s such a shame that people still resort to discriminate based on skin color. I blame the adds like Fair n Lovely, feasting on people’s insecurities and propagating such stereotypes… they should be banned for life.

    Liked by 1 person

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