For resources on how to be an ally and where to donate, please click here.
Being born and raised in Kerala has given me an immense amount of pride, especially considering how progressive Kerala is, compared to other states in India. However, despite this, I simply cannot close my eyes to the fact that Kerala is not perfect. As everyone knows (or should know), America currently has massive protests to demand justice for the innocent Black lives that have been brutally and unjustly murdered by the police.
America is extremely anti-black, but it doesn’t just end there. Anti-blackness and racism against Black people can be seen worldwide, including “God’s own country,” Kerala.
We live in a country that promotes whiteness and anti-black rhetorics. We have products like Fair and Lovely, Indulekha, Dhathri that take up the vast majority of space on shelves. This obsession with fairness comes from colonialism and globalization. The gag, though, is that most of these products don’t work long-term either. You have to continuously use the product, some of which also have toxic ingredients that can damage your skin to appear fairer.
We’ve seen celebrities like Nithya Menen, Kavya Madhavan, Samvrutha Sunil, and many more endorse these products to propagate that being fair-skinned is better than dark-skinned for years. It’s time we put a stop to this by boycotting and educating people that the color of your skin should not have a say in how you are viewed or treated as a person.
It starts with yourself. We need to unlearn that the color of our skin places no value in us as humans. We need to have this discussion with the older generation as well. The discussion around skin color and value starts at a very young age in families. We need to start standing up to those aunties and even uncles that comment on our and other people’s skin tones. We need to start challenging them on their deep-rooted internalized racism.
We, as a community, also massively appropriate and profit off of Black People culture. Black folks have been telling us not to use the ‘n’ word because it is incredibly offensive and horrific, yet we still have brown men and women that use it in their daily vocabulary. You cannot be an ally to the Black community and regularly use a slur, regardless of how “society changed the meaning.”
Many of us also continuously listen to rap and hip-hop songs, use African American Vernacular English (AAVE) when speaking, etc. Just because you were born in a Black-populated area, it does not give you the right or a “pass” to wear blackness. We selectively use parts of Black People culture for our demands and preferences yet do not even treat Black folks like actual humans. It’s time for us to unlearn that being Black is not a crime. It’s time for us to stop subjecting Black people to slurs and insults all because they are Black.
Karuthamuthu is a show about a dark-skinned woman and how she has to fight societal and family pressures due to the color of her skin. The show aired in October 2014 and became the second longest-running TV soap opera in Malayalam television for five years, with 1,450 episodes and four seasons, ending only in August 2019. This story itself would have been nice to show in a country where products like Fair and Lovely are heavily promoted. Still, they used this opportunity to do absolutely nothing to spark a conversation about colorism.
Mollywood, and every other Indian movie production centers, have dark-skinned actors and actresses. It’s not hard to find them either. So, they have no excuse to hire light-skinned actors and actresses and color their skin black to portray a dark-skinned person. Things like this are inexcusable and continue to promote the anti-blackness and colorist agendas we’ve had for centuries. We make fun of white people for not having a culture, yet we seem to be picking and choosing aspects of Black culture and whiteness. When you look at it, we’re not much different than white people when we glorify whiteness and place it as the benchmark when many of us are disregarding our own culture and roots.
It’s time for us to end the rhetoric that being Black or dark-skinned is something negative. It’s time for us to speak out against anti-blackness within our community. Kerala, although progressive, still needs some serious work. It starts with unlearning your own biases and anti-blackness and then tackling your racist family members. It includes donating to organizations that fight for Black lives. It means boycotting Fair and Lovely, along with other skin whitening products. It means treating Black lives like actual humans and not caricatures you can make fun of on Komady Circus.
We are quick to defend ourselves when North Indians compare the color of our skins to that of shit, yet we use this same insult on Black folks. We are quick to call appropriation when we see other communities wearing a pottu or applying henna on their hands (e.g., Selena Gomez, Beyoncé, and Iggy Azalea) yet we don’t call out our own people when they are, quite literally, using Blackness as a costume. Many Desis in Western Cultures profit off of appropriation. Just look at Lily Singh or even Navraj Singh Goraya, also known as Nav. There is a massive difference between appreciation and appropriation.
It’s lazy for us to act like there isn’t and to excuse our appropriation of Black culture as appreciation when Black folks aren’t even able to work, go to school, go shopping, etc. all because of the very same things we appropriate from their culture.
It is a necessary reminder that by trying to get rid of anti-blackness in our community, it does not mean that we need to be anti-white. This is all about inclusivity, and that beauty is found in all skin colors.
It is extremely irresponsible for us to act like anti-blackness in our community doesn’t exist, especially when we have a whole show based on blackfacing. We need to acknowledge the fact that we have privilege — more privilege than the Black community. We need to step up and demand justice and help them. If you want to be a true ally, here are some links to organizations you can donate to, petitions you can sign, and much more. It’s time we step up as a community and fight for Black rights – something that shouldn’t have to be fought for.