Priya Mohal is one of our partner coaches. She specifically works with women of South Asian descent as she can offer a deep understanding of the cultural issues that some women from this community may face when trying to build a career after having a family.
In the piece below, she has written very candidly about colourism. She has written this in the interests of promoting thought and raising subjects that may sometimes provoke difficult conversations.
I’ve heard a lot about colourism in recent days and wanted to share it here; Tan France explaining how he bleached his skin at nine years old, Viola Davis’ interview with Oprah on Netflix where she said her mother and sister were beaten for having darker skin tones by black teachers with lighter skin tones.
In South Asian culture, we see this all the time. I’ve been surrounded by it and understood it from a young age, but I didn’t know it had a name: colourism.
For anyone who hasn’t heard about it, it’s when people within your own community or ethnic group treat you differently and sometimes abusively because you have a darker skin tone.
I’ve seen firsthand how lighter skin toned babies, children and adults are praised, seen as more beautiful, and thought that they will have a better future because it will be easier to get married and have well-paid jobs, but the opposite is thought to happen if you have a darker skin tone.
Women face much more discrimination than men of the same ethnicity with regard to their skin tone. You can imagine the impact on self-esteem, self-belief and confidence. Hence why there are whole industries that produce skin lightening creams.
Change has to happen.
I do think in the UK we are seeing generational changes where brown women now are fed up with this and try to not judge or treat people with darker skin differently, even letting their own kids enjoy being out in the sun. I recently went to a hot country with my kids and had to bite my lip a few times so I didn’t say ‘Get out of the sun, it will make you dark’. I don’t want my kids hearing any of that. I’m working on my own cultural conditioning.
If there are any Bridgerton fans, the one thing that really impacted me was the leading actresses being beautiful dark-skinned women and they had romantic storylines. I just never saw this growing up and I hope it will continue!
If you’ve faced colourism before, feel free to get in touch with me about your experiences - the more we talk about it, the sooner we can make changes.