Colourism exists. It is the discrimination between fair and dark skin, and the idea that those with lighter skin should be treated in a 'better' way.
Recently I have returned to my home country of Bangladesh.There are obviously many cultural and social differences between England and Bangladesh, but there is one profound difference that struck me: Advertisement.
The minute I stepped out of the airport in Bangladesh, I was slapped in the face with adverts proclaiming "Fair and Lovely". What makes it worse is that, that the models are not close to looking like the demographic of women in Bangladesh. But what could be worse than unattainable 'beauty' standards? Perhaps that fact that those with dark skin are too often than not shunned for their colour, and those with fair skin are put on some mythical 'pedestal'.
South Asian countries are notorious for their skin whitening products, most of which contain chemicals that do more harm than good for the skin. The most prominent being the "Fair and Lovely" range. I know a lot of British-Asians are all too familiar with this product. It's stocked in the shelves of many Bangladeshi/Indian shops in the UK alongside other 'beauty' products.
During my research into this skin whitening 'phenomena' in South Asia, I stumbled upon the term 'Shadism'. This term describes a form of internalised racism, that exists in many cultures. It is the prejudice against someone solely down to their colour of skin. I knew there had to be more to this issue than just advertisement that was influencing women and men to feel indifferent to the idea of having dark skin, and this term summarised it perfectly.
I also discovered the #unfairandlovely campaign, which proved that change is on the cards for many people, despite the continuous standards in place within South Asian countries. People do understand the negative impacts of products such as 'Fair and Lovely', however, it is difficult to change the mindsets of many, but it can be done.
I can understand the tremendous pressure young boys and girls in such countries feel, having grown up with the South Asian culture. Growing up, I struggled a lot. I live in a white working/middle class area in England, and it really wasn't until secondary school that I was exposed to people that were like me; that were darker than the majority in my area.
I felt a sense of security in that I wasn't the odd one out anymore, and that it was OK to be different. It was even stranger when I realised people were going to extreme lengths to become darker, and peers would remark that "you're so lucky that you're tanned naturally". Growing up I saw that being fair was deemed as 'lucky', so to be told having darker skin made me 'lucky' was different to say the least. It was like realisation had suddenly hit me. We all want what we don't have, or what we are told is beautiful. All we have to do is remind ourselves that dark skin, like fair skin is beautiful too.
So next time someone says "you're pretty, but you're dark." Stop them. Educate them. Most importantly, remind yourself that being dark is not something to be ashamed of, and if you witness such a thing being said then do the same.