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Calling out colourism

  • Published at 10:54 am July 15th, 2019
Photo: Nathan Dumlao

What’s your take on colourism?

How do we define a ‘good’ colour? Even if we can, we never have similar definitions. Especially when it comes to complexion, you can’t really define a good or bad skin colour. Preferences shift along with the globe and the ideology that emerged thousands of miles away years ago, somehow, managed to spread like a virus all over the world. In Bangladesh, people are often judged for their complexion whether it be for job interviews or searching for partners. The constant jokes and even family members pointing it out can affect a person’s confidence. Then again, we often have a variety of perceptions and when it comes to one’s own complexion; everybody has a different story. 

We reached out to friends and family and this is what they had to say:

What are the issues or problems you face on a daily basis due to the colour of your skin?

As a man, there aren’t many things to exemplify as issues towards my skin colour, which is dark. But, there are still some issues that exist such as ‘dark’ guys are not perceived as handsome as often as the ‘fair’ guys, sometimes, I feel less prioritized than a fair guy.

Rifat Hasan

No problem at all, some of my old friends gave me a nickname Kala for my complexion and I absolutely love that!

Hasan Mohammad Maheyan

Tell me about an incident when you faced major discrimination.

I can recall one incident in this regard that happened with me four years ago. I was walking my cousin home from his coaching and he’s what you can call a real ‘fair’ guy! I was stressed that day; we were on a rickshaw and very close to my cousin’s home. Suddenly, the police stopped our rickshaw and asked me to get down, I got down and then he searched me. What made me angry was the fact that my cousin was also getting off the rickshaw with me but that ignorant police told him that it's not necessary for him to get off. Afterwards, I realized that it was my stressed dark skin that mattered and I was angry, but not sad. Such foolish or unwise acts can enrage me a bit but it sure can't sadden me.


When did you first become aware of the notion that the colour of your skin might become a huge part of your identity?

I never felt concerned about my skin colour. I became aware of my skin colour since my grandma started calling me Kalamanik with affection. Yes, sometimes, some people use skin colour to identify others. For instance; “Do you know the dark guy or fair guy working in our office?” So my concern was never regarding skin colour, rather I focused on developing a humane and smart personality.


I am aware that it is a part of my identity but never bothered to understand how big of a role it plays.


Are you comfortable in your skin? If yes, how long did it take to accept yourself the way you are? If no, why?

‘Ami, amaar moto kore’, these are my favourite words from the song Shajo Tumi. I never thought too much about my looks. Since I was born in this sleeve, I have to take care of it till I die, and stay healthy!


Yes, I am comfortable with my skin, it never bothers me nor did, except for that day’s police incident. I was actually never worried about it, otherwise, I wouldn't be the one talking about a dark guy's experiences; rather, I would try to become fairer by any means!


Majority of people believe that women face more discrimination due to the colour of their skin than men do. Do you agree or disagree?

The discrimination regarding skin colour is seen more towards women than men, I do agree with this. It has become a stereotype which refers that only fair girls are beautiful. I don't recall any dark-skinned heroins in our movies and also there are some workplaces where employers look only for fair girls or in their sense - ‘beautiful girls.’ Like these, many other instances can be provided but I think these are sufficient to beget hatred towards this stereotype.


Of course, plentiful, at least in Bangladesh. How many times did you hear stereotypical old folks saying ‘bou shundor kintu kalo’ in wedding ceremonies? Yeah, it's a common thing to overhear in every ceremony in Bangladesh.


How do you believe the notion of beauty in our society can be changed?

Media can play a huge role to influence mass population, but the change needs to come from within us. Because, truthfully, when people take offence because of comments on their skin colour in the year 2019, this means they themselves take their skin colour as a flaw. They don't need to stay insecure for that today.


From my point of view, it all comes down to one's own self. There has to be the presence of mannerisms, ethics, and above all, humanity. Family is the major contributor of these virtues. So, first of all, the root (family) has to be strong enough to provide nutrients, thus, the fruit (people) can be sweet.


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