Dictionary.com defines “colorism” as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group: colorism within the black community has been a serious emotional and psychological battle.”
While colorism exists among many cultures, colorism has had a longstanding history in our own South Asian community. Indian and Indian-diasporic women and girls are constantly bombarded with images of fair-skinned models, billboards with bleaching creams, and of course, Bollywood’s pedestalization of fair-skinned actresses as the Indian beauty standard. Here at Brown Girl, I’m proud to say we’re constantly working on projects and showcasing organizations that bring light to the issue of colorism. Brown girls, after all, come in all hues and shades. From fair to mahogany, all should be celebrated equally.
We would like to introduce you to an exciting and growing movement called Glowing with Darkness or #GWD.
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Glowing with Darkness originated as a campaign started by two high school seniors, Anushka Colaco and Nidhi Subramanian while they attended the Awty International School based in Houston, Texas. The inspiration for the campaign started with years of Anushka and Nidhi’s own observations of colorist behaviors within the Indian community. From witnessing friends being told by mothers and aunties to put lighter powder on their face in hopes of looking fairer, to not playing out in the sun too long for fear of getting “dark,” both women felt it was a consistent and inappropriate message many Indian girls receive from a young age.
Ideas ran through our heads for months as we knew we wanted to create social awareness that not only was ingrained in school but in our Houston community as a whole. Houston has a significant Indian population and we noticed that despite living in the United States, people still have the belief that fairer skin is considered more appealing. This mindset that many Indians possess is definitely not acceptable and in today’s times, we should instead be reforming society to celebrate diversity.
Nidhi and Anushka wanted to create social awareness about colorism not only in Houston but on a much larger scale. After launching the #GWD campaign, Nidhi and Anushka decided to take it one step further by turning #GWD into a movement. Inspiration to continue such a movement came when the women took a trip to a girls’ orphanage called Udavum Karangal in Chennai, India. While conducting a beauty workshop for girls 8–14, the girls were asked: “What does beauty mean to you?” Some of their answers are as follows:
Pradhyna, 11-years-old said: “Happiness.”
Vpasana, 13-years-old said, “Success.”
Seema, 14-years-old said, “Joyful.”
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While many of the answers were positive, Indian girls in India and the U.S. are frequently subjected to comments and images emphasizing fair-skinned beauty standards. Changing the mindset of such standards starts with awareness. In changing the stigma South Asian girls and women are allowed to feel beautiful in their own skin.
“You don’t have to change your skin color,” is a message that is reemphasized through #GWD.
Hopefully, that mindset will replace colorism one day. Glowing with Darkness hopes to build its mission and movement by creating projects such as beauty workshops and photoshoots showcasing beauty in all hues to start. For more information on the Glowing with Darkness Movement please visit their Instagram page and their website.