As featured on AIESEC Global
“You’re lucky that you don’t have to get a tan.” Said one of my caucasian Australian friends in college.
Ever since I was 12, I used beauty products with bleaching properties because the Malaysian sun and my heritage made me tan easily. I was praised for being fair (for a south east Asian at least). Growing up in South East Asia meant I was always surrounded by commercials and beauty products that encouraged people to be fairer. I was also constantly exposed to media that whitewashed characters or created negative stereotypes of those who weren’t fair-skinned.
So it’s not surprising really that I grew up hating being tanned. It had been ingrained in me ever since I was a little girl that if I was fairer, I would be more beautiful and I would be able to go far in life
And then I came to Australia and lived in a residential college with mainly Caucasian Australians. I lived in a community where I was surrounded by girls who got spray tans and wanted to get tanned to be beautiful. And when one of them expressed their jealousy at the fact that I didn’t have to worry about getting a tan, I bristled with indignation. Because here they were trying to make their skin darker to be beautiful while back home, women especially had to lighten their skin in order to be deemed as beautiful and to have a higher chance of being successful.
I was angry and still am angry but not at the girls who wanted to get a tan (it’s not their fault). Neither am I angry at the girls, myself included, who lighten their skin (it’s not our fault either).
I am angry at the situation; at the fact that those who are light-skinned and privileged can afford to change their skin tone just for beauty and make themselves appear darker without having to worry about being discriminated, while the rest of us have to lighten our skin in order to be successful or to at least be treated with respect (after all, society is kinder to those they deem beautiful). I am furious at the fact that colorism is still evident in this day and age and that we feel the need to change the colour of our skin to feel beautiful (because really, whether we’re extremely pale or dark or in between, we are all still beautiful).
Because colorism goes beyond racism. Where racism involves us discriminating each other based on the other person’s ethnicity, colorism makes us discriminate the people whom we share the same ethnicity with. Yes it is important for us to acknowledge and fight for our rights when we are discriminated because of our ethnicity and the colour of our skin, but we also need to be aware of our own internal (and poisonous) mindset that may not discriminate others based on the colour of their skin but instead the shade itself.
This piece titled “Living Multicultural: The Reality of Being an Asian in Australia” is about Australian Citizens/Residents of Asian Descents whose family moved to Australia before or after they were born. The video explores the reality of living in Australia as an Asian and their sense of identity as an Australian is questioned due to their ethnicity and the colour of their skin.