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So You Want To Be White…

h/t to Mr.Pages for this article: “Acclaimed skin-whitening studies from Ottawa raise racism concerns”

Some quick eyebrow-raising quotes:

Award-winning research by Ottawa biochemists into technology that makes dark skin fairer is renewing controversy about a type of cosmetic product worth billions in Asian markets.

‘The market exists and we’re not going to increase or decrease that market.’— Researcher Eman Ahmed-Muhsin

“We’re not racist,” she [Ahmed-Mushin] said, pointing out that tanning products are popular in North American in the way whitening products are in places such as India, Japan and China.

Critics have accused the industry of racism and imperialism. Ranni Moorthy, a U.K.-based actress from India, told CBC News the products are touted as cures, as if dark skin is “some kind of disease, to be put right.”

Notice the language here seems to tying together skin color and “the market”.

From what I’ve been told of the Indian notion of race, the etymology of the word “caste” is strongly correlated to “color”. And most Asians, including South, associate white skin with luxury…free from work, shaded from the sun, and pristine.

It just so happens that there is a whole people group out there whose most definitive characteristic is their white skin. It also is coincidental that those people have, over the last five hundred years or so, developed global distribution channels and created entire systems of economics and markets that allow for ridiculous amounts of profit to be gained. So now, people of color who never want to be that color again can white themselves out and people with white skin can paint and glaze themselves some other color. And you know what? It’s all in the name of money…there’s a market, it exists, and therefore we are slaves to it.

Any problems with this? Anyone?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

6 responses to “So You Want To Be White…

  1. People are never happy with what they have; some white people want cosmetic surgery, they are not happy with just white. A view one way or the other on skin colour indicates that there are bigger issues to worry about. However, even if the mind is strait so that colour does not matter, it does not affect the prejudices of others, so I can understand the race to the lowest common denominator.

  2. MrPAges

    MrsPages and I have this recurring discussion that has turned into a running joke.

    Early in our marriage, she noted that she was offended that Gif peanut butter had an ad that said “Moms love Gif…” and she said that advertisers had a responsibility to be equal and unbiased in their advertising. I responded that 95% of the people that buy Gif are moms, so they are simply marketing to their buyers.

    The whole “we’re not racist, they WANT it!” argument is similar.

    It’s circular, it’s self-perpetuating and it’s never going to go away until someone puts a stick in the spokes and says “Whoah, time to rethink some assumptions here.”.

  3. It’s not just skin colour. It can be hair colour. It colours and is coloured by people’s self-perception (bad pun intended).

  4. yeah, i’m obviously very torn with this article as well.

    if it were a clear postcolonial issue, it would be much better, but the fact that there seems to be something deeper within many cultures that idealizes whiteness makes it more complex.

    on top of that, the fact that we can commoditize it seems even more strange. while white people can say it’s all the same thing, it strikes me that skin color is not usually where it stops, as Epeuthetebetes mentions, it is also hair color, eye features, nose features, and even lip features that people of color are idealizing. i’ve have yet to hear white people trying to get more kinks in their hair or wanting to get their noses flattened.

  5. elderj

    Is it a problem… sure. What can be done? Not much.

    As to the cultural preference for fair skin, it is somewhat understandable since fair skin is usually equated with higher economic status in many parts of the world, due to the whole “working in the fields” thing. But as you note, the combination of recent European world hegemony and racist theory have exacerbated the situation.

    Coincidentally, women naturally are fairer than men – even within the same ethnic groupings.

  6. Pingback: Rest Stop « Merging Lanes

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