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OP-ED: Our blackened psyche

  • Published at 06:38 pm June 12th, 2020

When did we start looking down upon dark skin?

We have a very popular fairness cream that sells like hot cakes in Bangladesh. I think this particular cream is also quite high in demand in India. The admiration for the fairness cream proves that an enormous number of our citizens aren’t happy with the colour of their skin and they want to whiten it. Otherwise, this cream wouldn’t be in vogue in our country.

Let’s forget this particular cream. Before it came to the market, we had many others manufactured by local companies. The companies understood that whitening creams would sell very well in Bangladesh.

And that brings us to the fact most of the people of this country want to be white-skinned. We don’t like our own colour. We think we are black and brown people and we have to turn our skin white in order to look better. It’s ingrained in our psyche that black-skinned people aren’t good-looking.

What a pity!

We are not born with white skin, but we want to make it white. This implies that there’s deep sense of inferiority within us about our own colour and there’s a fathomless admiration for white skin. We have grown up with this thought in mind.

When a child is born, everyone becomes curious about his or her skin colour. “Is the baby forsha and shundor?” Everyone and every relative would wonder first. Then everyone tries to match the baby’s face either with the mom or dad.

If a woman is born in Bangladesh with dark skin, she has had it. She is the last choice of a man or his family in the marriage market. 

I’m not very sure about the percentage, but most of the men in this country want to marry a fair-skinned lady. 

So, this proves that we consider fair-skinned ladies prettier and more appealing than dark-skinned ones. Being born with a dusky complexion is a curse or a sin for a woman in this country.

Another reason to feel pity for us.

Now, many of us might have observed that, over the last decade or so, young girls and women in their 30s have started dying their hair. Many colours have arrived: Blonde, burgundy, golden, different shades of brown. Some explain this as these ladies wanting to break the shackles of social norms and wanting to choose what they look like.

However, unblackening our hair partially comes from our fascination for white-skinned people and partially it was the influence of the fashion industry. I know of a lady who had European-white skin with blue eyes. She had a real tough time to escape proposals all her life.

The point that I am trying to make is that when a racist incident happens in the US or France or any other white-majority country, we vehemently get angry at them. But we don’t realize how racist we are. We fail to look at our white-admiring souls, but condemn the white people for their injustices to the black people.

How do we treat Africans? We have dark and brown skins but we look down upon African people. 

Now, how did this happen? When did we become an awestruck-by-white lot? Who taught us to look down upon Africans? Although I haven’t seen any specific research on this in Bangladesh, I can try coming to some conclusion from social observations and discourses.

Were we influenced by white colonizers? We were ruled by white Britain for 190 long years. Before that, we had the Portuguese who treated us like slaves. I don’t know whether we considered the Mughals as white. The outsiders had always considered us as a backward lot and they wanted to save us from our savage lifestyle. By doing that, they began to subjugate us.

Centuries of subjugation have perhaps led us to believe that white-skinned people are superior to us by all indicators. This is what they wanted us to believe so that they could rule. 

And they were very successful in what they wanted. Whiteness still rules our society in many forms. They are ruling us from within, as we have become enslaved by thinking that they are better than us.

Once upon a time, they had othered us and taught us the ways of otherization, and we have been practising the art of othering our own people for centuries. We don’t know when we will be able to come out of this psyche -- a blackened psyche, our racial souls. 

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.

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