In India, we find people of all skin colours adding to our diversity not just in race, religion, languages and culture but in the way we look as well. Instead of appreciating the diversity, what has happened in our culture is that a clear preference for fair skin has emerged. Even though people with less melanin in their skin are such a small percentage of our sun-kissed Indian population; actors, models, news anchors and public entertainment industry all seem to come from this small group of fair-skinned people. Furthermore, our perversion with fair skin has reached such sick levels that there’s even internalised racism based on the slight differences in Indian skin colour between the north and the south, north-east and heartland. If the fairness of your skin translates to beauty, it also becomes evidence of the sexism prevalent in our society based on how “higher standards” of fairness are applied to women in entertainment and showbiz than their male counterparts.
When online shopping began in India, and there were models all over the internet selling stuff for the new startup companies, the trend on skin colour of these models didn’t look any new. The otherwise “disruptive” startup founders of the new economy for all their liberal talk and progressive silicon valley culture, failed to disrupt this disturbing trend of associating fairness with beauty. A trend that started with our early cinema, then penetrated television and advertising to news, showbiz and every imaginable public media including the internet. And a trend that reinforces the culture of discrimination based on skin colour.
That’s where I find Amazon has done something amazing recently by introducing dark and dusky skinned models on the front page of its Indian store. Just like it uses African, Asian, European, Latino models on its US store. Where by law and for the sake of political correctness ‘affirmative action’ is needed to ensure media doesn’t add a positive feedback to any culture of racism and discrimination that may be present. Though a slight step by just one retailer on only its front page (yes the women’s apparel section at Amazon is filled by fair skinned models only), it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, they also introduce men and women of all colours and races in India into all sections of their web store and other retailers in India follow this trend by a trendsetter in the commerce space.
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