Colour Bias.

On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn.

Serendipity? Exactly 41 years to the day, I have been asked to write about colour bias in India by an American. Let me quote him -“I have spent time in your country, I enjoyed myself very much and felt more comfortable than I do in many parts of the US. Color is a major issue here between black and white. In India, the southern Indians many of whom are dark complected tell me there is a color bias where the golden brown people of India feel somewhat superior. Is that true? I would love to have your comment included in the blog post because your statement is compelling.I think our president is conducting himself with class and dignity and there are many Americans that have gotten past his race.


JD is short for Jim Walton who writes a fascinating blog called Black In Business.

In separate email correspondence, JD and I have been discussing whether Mr. Obama’s blackness has to be taken into consideration at all while viewing his presidency, and I had referred to Eugene Robinson’s oped in the NYT.

I had said that most of us human beings, take ourselves too seriously and that we should learn to enjoy humour for what it is, just humour. We however tend to add spice to innocuous comments and come to unnecessarily convoluted conclusions about sensitivity and insensitivity. The issue that raised this interesting discussion was the interview that President Obama gave to Jay Leno where he joked about his bowling ability, comparing it to the para olympics. You can read Jim’s post and my comments to get a perceptive.

The issue of colour bias in India, is not quite a prejudice in the classic sense, as it is a preference for lighter hues. I suspect that this is a hangover from our colonial times rather than something inherent in our culture. All our Gods, sorry, that should read Hindu Gods,thank God for that, are pitch black and one of them takes on a dark blue hue too! A people who worship Black and Blue Gods, cannot be accused of colour prejudice can they?

The preference for the lighter skin tone I suspect, is the subliminal message of white being superior rather than different, that has succeeded via various brain washing methods like, language, advertising, etc. I personally would like some black beauty to give me some encouragement. Alas, in all these years, that hope has never fructified. Does not stop me from hoping though.

Jim is right. Our Matrimonial advertisements are full of descriptions of brides being of fair colour and men wanting fair coloured brides. The reverse does not however feature at all. It is therefore safe to conclude that Indian men prefer fair brides whereas the Indian women could not care less, as long as other qualities come up to scratch. My hats off to the Indian ladies for that highly practical approach to matrimony and for that matter, life in general.

It is not as though dark skinned women in India do not get married. In fact, more of them get married and stay married than perhaps the others – possibly due to geography and the differences in cultures. India is after all a country of many cultures and civilizations and some do better in somethings and the others in others. Incidentally dark skinned people are not located only in the South. They are spread all over India but perhaps more noticeably so in the South. The density of population is greater there. Not for any other reason.

Jim, I am afraid that if you ask an impossible fellow like me to comment on such matters of great importance, you will get this balderdash. I refuse to be cornered into favouring one over the other. I personally am safely in-between, even in my skin tone! So are all other members of my family. So, in India you have a third alternative – the brown, which I prefer to call the in-between. You can call us fence sitters too if that seems appropriate.

I shall visit your blog anon and give a link to this blog so that this long post does not clutter up your comment box! Thank you for the opportunity to do so.

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