Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cultural Appropriation and Colorism

This marking period, my GT class focused on racism. But before I could discuss racism, and talk about races discriminating against each other, I really wanted to talk about the discrimination occurring within the same race. Something called colorism exists and is just as impactful and real as racism. In a way, its even more tragic than racism is. It's the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Colorism is definitely something I have experienced. When I was younger, I craved a fairer skin tone and lighter eyes. Why? I was surrounded by a family and neighborhood and culture where fairer skin was simply prettier. I grew up in a culture where it was completely normal for movies to have the heroine be a fair gorgeous girl while the comedian and villain was drastically darker. It was so normal for me that, I didn't realize the strangeness of fairness commercials until I showed my 10th grade class. I grew up with comments like "She's pretty for a darker girl" and "Eat more of this, it'll make you fairer". These comments seem odd to an American class, but how odd is it really? These comments can compare directly with America's obsession with tanness. Why is being pale an insult but being tan is compliment? My class discussed this, and we came to a few conclusions based on some history. For India's fairness obsession, we concluded that in the past, being fair was associated with being wealthy because of the British that had power. In America, we concluded that during the Industrial Revolution, the rich could go out and get the infamous tan while the poor had to work in factories resulting in paler skin since there was little exposure to sun. Although this seems to clear everything up, it still bothers me that skin color ideals still exist, and are a big part of society all over the world.

Cultural Appropriation is another major topic we discussed. It is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group. At first, I had trouble understanding why this could offend people. Seeing indian items and Hindu symbols in American stores and being purchased by people who have no knowledge of the true meaning of the things never bothered me. But it bothered other people. I didn't understand why people couldn't let people use cultural things without knowledge of what it was. I asked myself, "Why do they care, what they do with it? It doesn't affect them. They themselves know the meaning, why did they have to force others to know it too? Is cultural symbols something that can be stolen?" And that's when I realized why I didn't understand. I don't even know the meanings behind Hindu and indian symbols. Maybe that's why I'm okay with others using it. I use indian symbols and things as decorations and etc. without having a clue of it's meaning but it's completely okay. But if someone who was not indian, and did the same it's considered cultural approbriation.This is a topic, I'm still struggling to really understand. I am a little afraid to question it, because I know many people see why it is so wrong. I wish I could easily see the fault in it too, and I'll continue to learn about it until I do but until then, I'll be trying to answer these questions. 

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