Q & A with Lena: Bringing Awareness to Anti-Blackness in India
It does not matter if you are Black, Latino, Italian or whatever culture or race a person is born? We can make a difference by stating the obvious when we see unfair treatment due to someone's pigment. We can change the narrative by asking a question about preference. Many will deny the obvious but biased behavior patterns and biased bigoted comments do not lie. By asking a question when you see unfair treatment you are bringing attention to awareness.
So many people are quick to say they don't have a preference but statics and unbiased algorithms on the internet definitely provides evidence that society has an obsession for fair skin. At the top of the list, there is an infatuation for blonde hair or a woman with Nordic features. This is found to be prevalent and favorable in the United States among most cultures and ethnicity.
For several months I have been researching Anti-blackness in the U.S. and stumbled upon Leena also known to most people as The Crazed Indian House Wife. I was unaware that fair skin is favorable around the world and to my surprise in South Asia too. I am a dark-skinned African-American woman and as a child, my complexion was a problem within the African-American community. I thought the issue was only within my race due to slavery. But this issue goes deeper than I could ever imagine. After reading several different articles and watching news commentators. I decided to reach out to Leena for a Q & A. Leena has her Master’s in education and wrote a thesis on Sex Education Comparative and a separate dissertation on Modern South Asian History.
Supremacy by Colonialism
Where does this obsession with Nordic features stem from and how can we change the narrative?
“So there are two ideas the first being the Caste system, where the working class people were out in the sun and therefore much darker skin, so like the days of slavery, it was like the people who worked in the house vs. the people who worked in the field. The second wave came from the colonization of the British. With them intermarrying they even set up a whole different type of Indian that still refer to themselves as "Anglo-Indians" They are the same type of Church of England as many of the original British settlers too. Then, of course, white skin became further wanted to associate more and more with those Anglo Indians and then on top if you throw the Portuguese into the mix you have the Goa-Indians who claim Portuguese and Indian heritage. Then we have the Original Kushite Tribes from Africa that came out of the first set of migrations out of Africa....so much stuff to deal with.”
Can you give a little background as to how or when the skin lightening creams became a $13 to $24 billion industry in India?
“Skin Whitening creams have been popular forever, it always has been since as far back as my grandmother's generation. I know that all the big Bollywood stars have promoted "fair & Lovely" - which is the dominant brand, but it is promoted Everywhere, like a bombardment. We have this toxic mentality with Aunties ganging up on young women from a very young age telling us that our skin color is too dark and that we should use skin bleach to make the "hair on our face lighter and clean the pores, making the face clean looking"
How does colorism affect relationships and marriage in India?
“Because many marriages are arranged or use introductions with families choosing the girl for their sons. It is very much a thing to see how light a woman is, in hopes that the babies will be lighter too, the whitening up for the family, is their greatest hope outside of having a boy child usually.”
What made you start your YouTube Channel and dedicate most of your videos to cultural and social issues?
“Personally, I started my channel because my Dad who was darker skinned than my Mom died when I was young. I have his complexion, whereas my Mom is White passing. My Dad's sister and his mother both all my life made me feel terrible about my skin color, and so did my cousins who were all fairer than me, except for one, and they called all of us "Darkie" they still do, my other cousin who is darker than me still refers to himself as darkie and one of his sons like that too. It grosses me out because he's just continuing the cycle. I wanted to start my channel because many people in my family die early and in case I did I wanted my kids to know how I felt about them and when to stand up against colorism and other social issues. I really just want to leave for them example setting for what is right and what is wrong. To be those boys and men who if they see something shitty happening in the world, that they step up and say something, not just subscribe to the status quo”.
What advice do you have for any woman living in a society obsessed with fair-skinned European or Anglo features who is confident in her beauty but treated unfairly because of her complexion?
“I think women simply have to embrace their beauty, in my case, dark skin, crooked nose, freckles, gray hair, all of it comes from one of my ancestors and I'm super proud that I can look in the mirror with my bare face and be reminded of the people I've loved but lost...it sounds sappy, but it is the truth. As soon as I let go of all of my beauty expectations and embraced my darker natural skin, I just became happier! I'm almost 40 and since I was a kid people haven't been able to tell my age when I don't wear makeup, and I owe it ALL the Melanin!”