The complexion complex

Who said there is no fairplay in politics? Rather, all is ‘fair’ in this art of possible too. Sure, the raging debate, albeit skin deep, is an unfair diversion from real issues like sizes of tobacco warnings or of Marans’ frozen assets. But as our netas are so worked up over complexion, it is in fairness of things we prajas chip in too.

Vivid descriptions of colours of nature become poetry and paintings. But even a passing mention of skin colour turns touchy and into racism, particularly when public persons scratch its sensitive surface. The Sharad-Smriti spat had barely ended. And now Minister Giriraj wants to know if the Cong would have accepted a black Nigerian women as leader had Rajiv married one. The political furore has now morphed into a diplomatic row with the Nigerian embassy complaining.

Cong’s interest is power-centric and race-neutral. And many of us would still have objected to a foreigner as PM, black or white, Italian or Nigerian, Rajiv’s spouse or not, and from any party. Indeed, the BJP neta has done a gross injustice to this unresolved core Constitutional conundrum, apart from the stupidity of his coloured views. But have Sharad Yadav and Giriraj Singh touched a nasty raw nerve in everyone’s psyche? Is the spurt of righteous indignation actually a cover-up of a deeper truth that the duo had shovelled up in all its ugliness? Is it a parade of the guile and guilt of the ‘fair’ protestors as well as the angst and anger of the not so fair classes?

As a prelude and precaution, I state there are exceptions. Now, if preference for or prejudice against skin hue is proof of racism, then all are racists in some way. Period. The stand point may vary. It is true that those with dark skin tones are deemed fair game for discrimination by fairer ones. But it is also true that those with dark tones deem themselves inferior. To become fair is deemed quite fair, by the fair and less fair alike. The entire cosmetic industry relies on this established bias of the former and the unrelenting itch of the latter. And no research is needed to show that even a slight rise in fairness gives a disproportionate psychological boost. If by some providence a fairness cream works many would be happy to move beyond their darker days and often, darker dosts too!

Sorry. Society is such. The individuals who make it up have had their sub-conscious colour coded by evolution and history.Created or descended from apes, homo sapiens were originally dark complexioned owing to their sunny, tropical habitats. Migrations upwards to cooler climes gradually brought about a lighter shade to the skins in tune with the tangent of sun. Actually, absence of adequate sunlight put north-bound nomads at a great health disadvantage vis-a-vis their darker ancestors. Vital Vitamins were lost to them forever and hence their craze for tan even today. That the medical and physical robustness of the darker populace is a curse currently is therefore not the handiwork of the creator or nature but a human sleight of hand.

So how come the ‘pale and sickly’ (a deserving reverse racism, eh?) came to detest and dominate their dark forebears and cloud their brighter side? Medieval Europe’s military and missionary might is the root of modern ‘colour’ racism. Colonial expansionism, exclusivism and exploitation all had as their foundation a self-claimed civilisational superiority based on fair skins. They had the audacity to say that it is the ‘white man’s burden’ to rule the world! Hitler was the high-point of this mental Frankenstein which officially ceased with equal rights for the US blacks and fall of the Apartheid in South Africa. But the damage is done with the erstwhile ‘slaves’, who had for centuries live comfortably with their colours, now clinging on to their implanted attraction to ‘aspirational’ white. Western education, entertainment and economic models have all ensured their mind will never become colour blind! It is fashionable and forward to be ‘fair’!

Semantics too cement the sub-conscious. An evil act is a dark deed but a white lie is innocuous. There are black days and black magic, too. You can delve into the dictionary for several such derisive associations to darkness as also parallel lofty references to all things ‘fair’. But to be, well, fair, I must say that we don’t like white hair but love black money. In TN, dark glasses and white veshtis are real hep. Now, is that black humour or in ‘lighter’ vein? Also, some Gods and celluloid heroes are exempt from this bias, though not heroines, some believe. By the way, is a marked preference for a dark hue also racism? Point to ponder.

Here’s a ‘fair’ytale finish! Whatever your tone or gender, when you fantasise on a lover or life partner, what colour is that person?

Well, keep that to yourself but do reflect. After the dream scene is over, that is. Fair enough?

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Jawahar T R