Skin-Deep or Not, Asians Need to Admit Its Own Racism

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 - 12:12:33 WIB
By : Dana Fahadi | Category: Social Issues - 5437 hits
Last month the world was in shock following the neo Nazi and white supremacists’ violence in Charlottesville in the United States. News, thoughts, supports, and articles on horrible event flooded my timeline for several days.

Many of the articles offered different points of view in examining the problem, but one made me stop and reflect. In the piece, the author points out how Asians chose not to participate in counter-protesting the white supremacy and not to show their support during this dark and difficult time; and how they generally chose to stay because they felt the issue did not affect them.

The article is addressed to East Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) in particular by saying that basically they are not white, and they need to end the apathy and show some solidarity with fellow people of color.

After reading it, I remembered an article I read on BuzzFeed. In it, writer Ashly Perez, a Cuban-Filipino-Korean American tells her experience teaching English at a primary school in South Korea. One day she sat next to a student who was crying after the boys in her class called her “the Mayor of Africa” for having a slightly darker skin. Kids have been taught from a young age that girls with dark skin are less beautiful than those with fair skin.

Growing up in Indonesia, this situation is not unfamiliar for me too. Although generally people have brown skins, some are one or two shades darker or lighter than others. During my entire school life I watched how kids insulted their schoolmates based on their skin tones. Among my peer, I was considered relatively light-skinned, but in my family, I am one of the darkest skinned, at least for a girl.

Girls and women are expected to have fairer or lighter skin than boys. This is because people often associate being fair skinned with cleanliness and/or beauty. And, of course, women are expected to be the “clean” and “pretty” gender. Beauty and makeup products offer “whitening” lotion, soap, or cream. “Your skin got fairer” is often regarded as a compliment and “you look black” or “your skin got darker” is meant to be an insult or at least a condescending comment.

At this point, I began to think that maybe hereafter I’ll refrain from relating this Asian problem to white supremacy, since the issue here seems to be literally skin deep: the tone of one’s skin. But then I remembered that when my cousin’s story when she went to Korea once for a cultural exchange program. She told me that at a glance, Koreans generally are more welcoming to Caucasian foreigners than those who belong in the darker shades (South/Southeast Asians, African) race.

I cannot speak for everyone in Indonesia, but I personally have heard stories about college kids who joined an international buddy club program who were only willing to be paired with Caucasian students. And we all know about how we always love those bules (white people) or bule-looking individuals on our TVs.

Now, I rethink my previous stance. Maybe it is more than just about skin tone. Maybe it is also about race? Maybe deep down inside, we Asians agree that white people are superior to us, superior to other races with darker skins? It is a terribly ugly thing to admit, but it is better to admit it rather than pretend it does not exist. At least by admitting it, we recognize that it is a problem, that it exists, so we are one step closer to doing something about it. Because whether it is racial or merely skin-tone, prejudice is not okay. Discrimination is wrong.

Dana Fahadi is a graduate student pursuing a degree in Communications and Media Studies at Monash University, Australia. She is currently doing a semester exchange program at University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA. She is a feminist, aspiring singer, and she spends her free time re-binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy or making friends on Tinder AND in the real world.

Got an opinion on this issue? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

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Lara | 20 September 2017 | 23:21:29 WIB
I'm wondering if it's in Asian or in any race. Even in darker skin race, like african or east Indonesian, the lighter shade is more desirable. It seems like an extravagant claim but maybe you can recheck the fact, is it something evolutionary in human subconciousness then it become social construct or it's really social construct.

It's not only asian that should admit their internal racism
Itay | 21 September 2017 | 13:28:55 WIB
Interesting question Lara. I don't think it's evolutionary: early interaction between Hellenists and Africans is usually described as unbiased: in fact 'Etheyopians' as they were cold were considered beautiful. Intracultural discrimination based on skin tone is often related to class as well; lower classes were more prone to be darker due to sun exposure. However, during the industrial revolution (at least at western regions) sun exposure meant available leisure time and dark toned individuals were more revered.
Herinza | 21 September 2017 | 15:34:33 WIB
Malaysians does have the same issue as well. I relate to this the most, and I think the last paragraph got it summed up really good.
Mirisa Hasfaria | 21 September 2017 | 15:36:47 WIB
Part 1 - Hi there, just last night I had sort of not very inconvenient experience. I am Indonesian. But I have been living in Puducherry, southern part of India since July 23, 2017. I posted the experience on my FB, "There was a little boy came to the office last night. He wore 'Future Moustache Prince' t-shirt and I found that's so cute. He's a cutie himself. I tried talking to him, approaching him, but he always pushed me away saying, 'I don't want to talk to a bad person'."
Mirisa Hasfaria | 21 September 2017 | 15:37:41 WIB
Part 2 - "I found a way to ask him the reason he calling me that. His answer was, 'because you are white'. I was stunned. This is the first time in my life I was identified as a white person by a five years old kid. I tried to find the explanation what is that white concept he had in mind and associated me as being bad person but failed. Can any of my Indian friends or any Indian origins explain this to me? Physically, I have a brown skin, with black hair and black eyes. To my understanding, I am not white at all. So please help me with this because I don't get it at all..." I still get no explanation yet for but I can't stop thinking how come such a very young boy already became racist - that's how I felt about his act.
Ruby - Astari | 21 September 2017 | 16:56:28 WIB
When I was a kid, people used to tell me my skin tone was the lightest. My older sister was told that hers was darker, in a tone as if it was a bad thing. Feeling unhappy with their remarks, she smirked and said about me, "That's because she rarely goes out." I never understand why anyone should compliment a girl by making another feel bad or ugly about themselves. Then I started going out more in college and after. Thanks to afternoon bus rides and walks under the sun, my skin tone's darker now. I don't mind, but some people who have seen me growing up make it a big deal - as if I'm personally letting them down. Duh, it's my skin tone! Leave it alone.
Meekyaung | 22 September 2017 | 09:20:05 WIB
Its crystal clear to me that Asians consider whites superior. Not only because of the lightness of their skin but because of what they think white people represent: success, wealth, education; intelligence, sophistication, individuality, exclusivity, elitism.

I don't think many Asians will admit it, even to themselves. And even while rejecting western ideals they secretly admire the people who propogate them; all the while feeling deep-seated innadequacy. Excusing their sycophancy as 'professionalism'- The Singaporeans are best at that.
I am a black African living in Asia btw. I recognise this glorification because it's familiar. Black people can at least see this collective flaw in themselves and address it. Unofficial self-love campaigns have been long underway to remedy this.

As for colourism among people of varying brown shades across racial lines- its hard to think of anything more outmoded. Yet alas, people go by it still.

P.S Generally speaking

Astrit Maria S 马里呀 | 22 September 2017 | 22:50:29 WIB
Gosh, I couldn't agree more!!! I love the way you arrange ideas, it clearly tells that you're a pro-writer❤️

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