I never pay any attention to so-called beauty pageants. But it was hard to miss the tsunami of tweets on the newly-crowned #MissAmerica, Nina Davuluri, who is of Indian descent. The majority of those tweets were not congratulatory.
Rather, they focused on the fact that Davuluri is of Indian heritage and therefore “cannot be regarded as American.” The fact that she has dark skin and dark hair. The fiction that she’s Muslim and a terrorist. And the speculation that she must run a Seven-Eleven store.
In fact, Davuluri’s American and from New York. She’s not a Muslim; she wants to be a physician, like her dad. The only intractable fact is that she’s dark-skinned.
Our fixation with fair skin and light hair is alive and well in the 21st century, rearing its ugly head from Zurich to Dhaka, and targeting women in particular. Cosmetics companies have built billion-dollar businesses hawking wonder skin-lightening creams to desperate women who are made to believe being a couple of shades lighter will give them a better chance in the world that places such a premium on fair skin. You will do well in school, land a plum job, score with a good-looking guy, make your parents proud – if only your skin’s lighter.
Award-winning Indian actor and director Nandita Das recently launched a campaign called Dark is Beautiful to “campaign against the toxic belief that a person’s worth is measured by the fairness of their skin.” Davuluri-haters should sign up for a lesson in being fair, regardless of skin color.