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.
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** 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.