From a fair world to a fair world

From a fair world to a fair world

It’s 9696 and humans are now born in 5 different colors red, white, green, black, and orange. And no one really cares what color you are. No color is a nice color. So if you differentiate one color from the other, say she’s blue, or he is orange, will that be a problem? No right? Classification is in itself ‘human’. How else will people make decisions? In fact, it has been scientifically proved to make decision making easier and faster.

Come back to 2020. Remember the old Fair and Lovely Ad where the young girl becomes successful as a cricket commentator after becoming fairer? I grew up watching ads like these on T.V. So did millions, if not billions, of other girls and boys.

What am I trying to say? Hang On.

Is the fairness cream industry the demon?

The fairness cream industry in India alone is a 200+ million dollar industry, which doesn’t even include the fairness-facewashes and shaving gels. So there is an entire industry out there profiting from insecurities of women and men. Then ‘Black Lives Matter’ happened. On 25 June, FMCG giant Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) announced that it was rebranding its face cream Fair & Lovely. J&J removed Neutrogena and Clear fairness while L’Oréal is the latest to remove words like ‘whitening.’ Ok, so does this help?

My take - Old wine in a new jar

Recent ads of Fairness creams no longer show young women achieving success only when their skin tone became a couple of shades lighter. Instead, they have moved on to words like nikhaar while other lightening brands use “dark spot removal” as a popular euphemism. The fairness cream label, the ad, and the display banner will change. But is that the real demon?

But is that cream on your shelf the real demon?

It seems obvious to blame the fairness creams for perpetuating feelings of inadequacy and the fair-skinned celebrities who played the part of the salesman pitching how people how life’s better on the fairer side of life. Demonize the fairness-creams because it’s their fault. Isn’t it? NO.

Then what is it? Let’s take a step back. Why did I want to be fair?

Like somewhere in 9696 when it did not matter what color I was, it certainly wasn’t the ‘fair color’. Or the fairness cream. It was because I understood somewhere inside that the benefits of being fair outweighed those of being dark. And I wanted those benefits. I wanted the world to clamor for my attention, regardless of whether I had anything to say. I wanted to be handsome or beautiful like only fair-skinned people seemed to be. I too wanted to be smiled at by strangers by radiating whatever it was that fair people radiated and got that reaction.

What I wanted was a ‘Fair privilege’

Fair privilege is what Fairness creams sell. The product exists because people want that choice. If, as a dark-skinned woman, I want to lighten my skin tone, how is it anybody’s business?” The fairness cream is NOT the problem. The fair privilege is. And the privilege is real.

Fair privilege had existed much before fairness creams came into being when the caste-system was entrenched and still exists today in many forms, with the skin color being the easiest marker of the divide. Fair privilege is what created the fairness industry and not the other way around. Advertising is nothing but a subtle reflection of the society we live in, and fairness cream labels follow the same rule.

So basically we are still in a post-colonial hangover. The British Raj ended over seven decades ago. Yet here we are. Constantly being punished for not being white enough. And trying — desperately — to be white. To be good enough.

The real demon is – Society: “You are sawli, and you need it.”

The market didn’t invent deep-rooted prejudice against dark-skinned, it saw an opportunity to talk to the largest market in the fair-skinned divide. It said the same things that dark-skinned people experienced and formulated a cream that decreases the melanin production of the skin to give an effect that you have become fairer.

What needs to change?

“Sawli hai but achi dikti hai” - Meaning sawli is a contrast to looking good?

“Try the black color it suits you” - Oh really? You are just making me feel other colors don’t

“Fair hai toh jaldi promotion ho jayega uska” - Wow!

There are legit filters on matrimonial sites that distinguish people based on their skin color. Especially if the male color is fair, the default searches also feature women with a lighter or a fairer shade - Wow so does this make the room any brighter?

What can I do about it?

The way we can make it through the world as better people is to use our intelligence to structure the world such that these biases don’t apply. So, if you want to make a difference –

As a parent

When you recite to your little child, “Gori gori pan fula sarkhi chan dada mala ek vahini aan” watch your step. Be careful of the rhymes you sing to your child, the songs you play at home, and T.V. ads he is exposed to. Make sure that you teach your child the right values before the society teaches him the wrong ones

As a Manager

A black employee can be just as qualified as a fair one. Open your eyes and think through before you pass that promotion.

And above all as a human

Don’t skip a cooking video on YouTube just because it has a dark hand cooking food. Don’t reject a shopping website because the body wearing the dress isn’t fair. Don’t outcaste your friend just because he is dark. Wake up as a generation.

Be fair from within. That’s what real fairness is.