My Light Skin Privilege

I had a strange interaction on Twitter recently, where someone claimed I was ‘caucasian’ and it got me thinking about my light skin privilege.

From the beginning.

I posted this tweet in 2015:

After a recent Guardian article that ‘revealed’ to us in a survey that white men dominate the British journalism industry, I brought the tweet back. A man (I assume) decided to link my tweet and educate me with a new survey.

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The first thing that hit me was the article that was linked to the tweet. It was an American survey (for one), talking about staff in publishing – not necessarily creative roles. In fact, the article goes into depth about how publishing is very white dominated.

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It seems that a meninist is out to bring down anyone that says anything to upset his gender, which obviously, is very discriminated against.

The second thing is a sudden realisation that when I’m not wearing traditional clothes, take away my mehndi tattoo, my headphones blaring out Bollywood bangers and maybe I seem European. I have always been aware of my light skin; my family would praise me for being ‘so fair’, as if it was something to celebrate, making statements such as ‘at least you’re not dark, thank God’. Both of my parents are from Punjab, I’m a Punjabi girl/British Indian/desi babe, but I am very light skinned. There have been many times that people have mistaken me for different ethnicities, mostly European, very rarely do people recognise me as Punjabi, Indian.

Only now am I aware of the repercussions my light skin has on statements I make and the work I do. Recently, I came across the hashtag #UnfairandLovely, which I recommend you look at if you haven’t. Every photo of each beautiful person of colour, celebrating their dark skin tones have filled me with such happiness. I’ve always hated the treatment of darker skinned Indians (for example), as I’ve seen it happen first hand. What I didn’t do is post a photo of myself along with the hashtag – I’m very fair and don’t want to belittle the statement of the hashtag. It’s not about my voice, I have privilege over those who have darker skin, so I would never try and yell above them. My voice doesn’t count here.

What I will always do, and hope others in my place do, is listen to people of colour with darker skin, celebrate them and yell alongside them. In my magazine (Burnt Roti), I try and celebrate all cultures, skin tones and voices in South Asia, without just concentrating on my own privilege. It’s difficult to talk about Bollywood, for example, without noticing the light skin privilege in the industry – all actors are light skinned, bleached senseless and always wearing the wrong foundation tone. There needs to be a bigger conversation about this, but again, I am a light skinned brown girl – my voice can only support, I can never speak for darker skinned people of colour. I never should. They don’t need ‘saving’ from people like me, they’re already making a statement and we should listen to them.

Pea Bo x

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