The Color Complex
Those of us who are of African descent know that due to the desire of whites to be "pure" they disowned their own offspring. as a result "black" people (and I use the term loosely here) come in "all shades" (very contradictory but...). Some spec of humanity in those early folks caused a general attitude that showed a preference for these persons, not necessarily because they were light but but at the very least because they were in fact children of whites. There are many exceptions to this but I'm not trying to write a thesis on the matter. As a result of this and other social issues there became in many ex-slave and ex-colonial societies a color system that also generally demarcated a economic and social status where the darker one was the more likely one was poor and of a lower economic status. Indeed in the United States Marcus Garvey noted that the NAACP had a habit of putting light skinned men and women in the front offices. This also resulted in friction between members of this "race." Please do note that it was not the decision by the blacks in the US to included any person with some black in them as black but rather a socially imposed decision by whites. Thus it is in fact a continuation of that imposition, when blacks discuss unity "within the race" when it concerns the "many shades." One way to confirm this would be to read the interview of Thandee Newton, who's mother is from southern Africa ( The exact location escapes me) and she stated that she was not considered black by her mothers people. However upon moving to England she was considered African, and in the states "mistook" for an African American. Confusing indeed. Anyway, many blacks are unaware of how pervasive the color complex is. Today I read an article in Indo Link entitled Color Complex In The South Asian Diaspora where author Francis C. Assi discusses interviews he had with woman and men from South Asia:
Nasir, a twenty-two year old from New York has this to say of his preference for fair skin: Would I personally be attracted to lighter-skinned Desi girls? Of course. I mean, its natural to find those girls more beautiful, to tell you the truth.
Sahar, a nineteen-year-old Desi from New Jersey, bemoans the plight of the single girl deemed unattractive: If a girl has a major flaw, shes just stuck. Its sad but . . . in society, if a girl is extremely overweight or extremely underweight, if shes very, very dark complected. These are all physical things, just physical abnormalities.
Grewal has noted in her study that particular physical qualities are always fetishized in constructions of beauty. However, in these communities, the stigma attached to dark color intersects with broader racial discourses in the U.S. Thats why a Desi mother of three daughters in their twenties, explicitly refers to dark coloring as a physical abnormality and deficiency.
As another informant, Sultana, says: Well, in [South] Asian communities, because there are so many shades, most everyone prefers light skin. And if they are dark, they have to at least be charming and pleasant looking. If they are not, then they are in big trouble. And it is much, much worse here than in India and Pakistan because over there if you are ugly . . . if you have any kind of deficiency than at least you can make it up with money. O.K. my daughters not beautiful, but I can give you a house. But here no one needs money. They all have money and so they cant compensate deficiency with money. See, we parents are afraid [of our children marrying dark skinned mates] because, if not for this generation, then the next generation, our grandchildren. Because dark color is dominant over light color . . . and the children will carry the dark color [because it] is a dominating feature . . . and it stays over the generations.
What I found revealing about this article was how dark skin was spoken of as a physical deformity. It is quite clearly known that the non-production of skin pigment is not only a genetic recessive, it is also a type of albinism ( as any person with vitiligo can tell you). As much as I've heard blacks talk about skin color I have never ever heard it referred to as a physical deformity. Clearly there are higher levels of self-hate out there.