Thursday, July 02, 2009

Our True Colours

A great article pointing out that Indians who accuse Australia of being racist should take a look at themselves. Racism Indian Style:
- A Madurai sessions court sentences Farook Batcha to two years' RI ["Rigorous Imprisonment" apparently, whatever that means in India] in 2008 for harassing his wife so much about being dark that it drove her to suicide.

- The information and broadcasting ministry issues a notice to Nimbus Communications for a racist ad during the 2007 India-West Indies series. The promo featured a West Indian running around for water after eating spicy food. No Indian comes to his help. The ad's punchline: "It's tough being a West Indian in India."

- Bilyaminu Ibrahim, a Nigerian student at an engineering college in Greater Noida, is spat at by one of his Indian seniors.

- Robert, a Kenyan student in Pune, is denied entrance to a pub. He is asked to return on Tuesday for an "all-black" night.

- A controversial ad for Fair & Lovely cream features a father who is unhappy because his daughter is dark and unsuccessful. The cream changes her complexion and lands her a glamorous job.
One of my close Cambodian friends, a woman around 30, was pursued by an African man. She went out with him for a while, but could never really accept him, even though she tried her best to, "as a good Christian". She kept saying he is a "black man". They soon broke up. I have no idea which country in Africa, since my friend herself did not know.

Cambodians in general are racist towards black people. It's not hard to believe, since even among Cambodians, darker-skinned people are discriminated against. Just ask Knila who writes: "When I was in primary school, my friends called me 'black' because of my skin color. "Black" was said instead of "brown"; I guess, their parents didn't teach them to distinguish between colors very well. Very sad. Half-blood chinese children were proud of their white or pale skin color. Some of them behaved superior to others in the class."

"Many women told me that to have white skin is to show a wealthy status in Cambodian society," she continues. "I thought, 'Oh, so Cambodians have disliked Cambodians themselves and 'brown' means dirty or of low status.'

It's a great article and I encourage you to read it yourself.

I know one Cambodian father who calls his daughter Srey Mao as a nickname, "K'mao" being the Cambodian word for "black" because he says, she is dark. Like Cambodia, Thailand too, stigmatises dark skinned people. One common insult I learnt from this article is "tua dam," or black body, a rude term to degrade someone of lower social standing. Also "e dam" (black girl) or "dam tap pet" (black like a duck’s liver).

So obsessed are Cambodians with skin colour you can find questions like "What is the actual descendant of a Cambodian who have white skin?" and Light Skin Vs Dark Skin Cambodian at groups and forums online.

Cambodian women use skin-whitening products, some of which are harmful. This led the Ministry of Health to declare in 2008 that it would control powders and lotions that promote skin whitening especially those that contain hydroquinone. Although commercial whitening products are widely available in Cambodia, they are also sold on the black market where they are incorrectly labelled or not labelled at all.

Of course the women do this also to attract men. Chhun Hy always tells me he wants to marry a girl with "white-skin". He categorises every girl he knows - me and Chantou are "white skinned", Rath and Thyda are "black skinned" etc.

In India, Cambodia, the whole of Asia really, people admire fairness. In a survey carried out in June 2004 by Synovate, 61 percent of respondents in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan said they felt they looked younger with a fair complexion. Half of Filipino women, 45 percent of Hong Kong women and 41 percent of Malaysian women said they were currently using a skin-whitening product. I am sure the percentages are higher now, not lower. In the last few years in Singapore, I have noticed magazines carrying advertisements for *more* whitening products.

The Taiwanese show "Meteor Garden 2" featured a Singaporean actress, Michelle Saram, of Indian-Chinese parentage (we say "Chindian" in Singapore). She was slammed by Taiwanese netizens for "looking like a Filipino maid" because of her darker skin. She has Indian blood, what do you expect? She is still a very pretty girl, but apparently not enough for Taiwanese audiences who expect their leading ladies to be snow-white.

Argh! I have to stop now. Just writing this makes my blood boil. People are just so stupid.

6 comments:

feddabonn said...

i hadn't realised other parts of south east asia also suffered the same mental illness about colour! in india, sadly, this has even entered the religious myths, where the good guys are fair, and the bad guys are dark. it *is frustrating!

in our first coupla months in aotearoa new zealand, it was quite amusing to be called 'darkie' by another brown person, lol.

Diana Saw said...

Hahaha! that was funny what happened to you in NZ feddabonn. The first time I heard the term "Darkie" was when it was spoken by a Brit. I'd never heard the term before in Singapore.

Johnston said...

yeah I see this all the time. It sucks and it also makes me pissed...

ArtemusFoul said...

I never understand the racism against people of color. I love michelle saram of meteor garden fame. i wud nver call someone 'darkie' or 'chindians', that was funny feddabonn mentions the bad guys being dark. they always are even in malaysia! I read some Thai ladies put fair skinned lotions too, and i saw this when i travel to bkk and phi phi before but to be fair, they are not all bad looking, I mean some of the mixed race asians look like thais and Cambodians too, just beautiful. so dark skin and light skin 'chindians' or cambodians are just beautiful!!! I got these links from wikianswers they look good to me? Michelle Saram looks hawt!!

http://www.theimghost.com/view.php?filename=92michellesaram.jpg
http://www.theimghost.com/view.php?filename=24stephenthanabalan.jpg

tiggy said...

it's in afghanistan too. at a major roundabout is a massive billboard for skin whiting cream. it shows a bloke with half his face normal/brown/tanned, and the other much lighter. from the cream of course. and in vietnam i noticed you could get skin whitening deodorant. lighter skin for your armpits???

Diana Saw said...

Thanks everyone for posting. It's incredible in the 21st century such discrimination exists in all corners of the globe. Let's all stand up and point out the stupidity of judging people based on their skin colour! Cheers from Cambodia, Diana

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