‘Black is bad’ is unfair

By Time of article published Jul 21, 2011

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I LOOK AT THE hoo-hah over Sorisha Naidoo's newest business venture with multi level interest.

My strongest view is that our general obsession with colour stems from age old ideas that black is bad and white is good. This apartheid style bias is perpetuated by movies, music and fashion; as well as print, radio and television advertising. They all reinforce the ugly stereotype that fair is indeed beautiful.

Then the democrat in me says, so what? If Sorisha wants to promote the product, as long as it's safe – why not? She's right about one, inescapable fact – some people want to be lighter, and others darker. And they would go to any extent to further that ambition. But is it healthy emotionally? Is it advisable long-term?

Personally, I found Sorisha's olive complexion appealing. In fact, the first time I attended the Miss India SA competition, was when she won the title. And I supported this vivacious, confident, dusky beauty, as much as I did Krijay Govender or Sarika Sukhdeo. There was something about these women, for different reasons, that I thought spelt winner, or role model. But it took someone of influence in her life, or certain rather superficial people, to tell her that there was something wrong with her skin, to make her internalise the insult, to let it affect her self esteem. And voila, the guarded though charming, fair Sorisha we see today.

The truth is, most human beings, for some reason, aren't always happy with nor thankful for the way they look, or what they have. Many that are fair want to be dark – many that are dark want to be fair. Tall people sometimes wish they were shorter and shorter people often wish they were taller. Those that are overweight want to be thin – those that are thin, want to put on some weight. Remember Amitabh Bachchan's classic song Mere angane me from the movie Laawaris– where he caricatures society's blatant approval of a certain look, regardless of a person’s IQ or EQ?

So, would Sorisha apply skin lightening products to her children with Vivian Reddy? I doubt it.

Here's what I do know, dear reader. Insulting someone, the way some of us do, says more about the kind of people we are, than anything else. Why else would we be projecting a clear fixation with one aspect of a person's life? Are we closet 'colourists'? A deeper level debate needs to explode around our relationship with colour, with judging each other, with giving in to the societal pressure we create, with brands that brainwash people by saying – 'You aren't the fairest of them all – until you buy, buy, buy our dubious, animal tested, trash!'

I say – use it yourself first!

Shabnam Palesa Mohamed

Durban

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