#LetsTalkColorism: The Pardesi Community
Updated: May 8
Misha is currently completing her Master of Public Health at Nova Southeastern University. In her time at NSU, she has been able to grow her passion for health care and community service. Community service projects and service trips not only provide deep integrity to the communities she is able to serve but also shine a brilliant light to continue the drive of excellence. She has taken on an incredible amount of leadership roles to enhance the lives of students at NSU and in the surrounding community. As she furthers her studies, she is passionate about gaining skills she will need to become an incredible physician in the near future and change the world.
How has colorism affected you?
Sadly, I do have older family members that whenever I would video call them or visit them the first thing they would say, “Oh you are so dark, what happen?”, and when I was 12- 16 years old it bothered me so much, I was embarrassed, I was insecure. I just did not understand, what the problem was with being darker. I would layer on Fair and Lovely on my face every night, thinking if I got lighter, they would stop picking on me. It took years for me to understand my skin is a blessing no matter what shade I am. I am darn beautiful, inside and outside.
How do you think we can overcome colorism in South Asian society?
It starts at home, start educating your friends and family, no matter what shade you are, you are beautiful and magically in every single way possible. You are art in the making, your skin tone has nothing to do with how beautiful you are. We need to start tackling even the most uncomfortable conversations regarding colorism at all levels. Stand up for what is right.
What message would you like to send to our community about self-love?
Self-Love. Today and every single day, you should love yourself. You have to prioritize yourself and fall in love with who you are and who you are becoming. Loving yourself could be so many different things! Starting from an extra-long peaceful shower to allowing yourself to eat ice cream in bed to telling yourself you’re beautiful in the mirror. Remember feeling beautiful, amazing, magically has nothing to do with what you look like, I feel like magic in my sweatpants and no makeup, or even playing dress up in full makeup and hair done, everyone is different, so let them be. Another tip, I have is to stop comparing yourself to others.
Ten things to always remember: 1. You are ART 2. Fix yourself, for YOURSELF 3. You are magic, I mean it 4. Search for yourself, not someone else 5. You are evolving, and that is normal 6. You are deserving of all the sunshine in the world 7. Fall in love with every single part of you 8. Count all of your blessings (every single one) 9. “Give to those who have nothing to give to you ” @rupikaur_ 10. “There is no light on this earth that could ever compare to yours, you are a rarity, a right to be seen, a force to be respected, with a love that should be cherished, don’t let them make you feel small, when you were born to be great.” @r.h.sin
What has been one way you have either used your privilege, or overcome your own self-doubts caused by colorism?
My confidence really grew through my mum. My mum is my angel and my best friend. Even whenever I would say back in the day, “I am so dark, I do not like it” she would stop me and remind me, I was beautiful and that even Krishna Bhagwan was darker and there is nothing wrong with that. She is my shade, and a queen that really helped me understand my worth. She is strong, resilient, and just pure MAGIC. Her smile lights up every room, and you feel special in her presence. Through my confidence I have built, I do my best to help others through misha_inspires on Instagram. This is a process of growth.
We all got this.
NehaXStitch is a South Asian-American embroidery artist whose work focuses on intersectional experiences, social justice, or just whatever is on her mind that day. She hopes her work inspires others to see the world through her lens, however serious or humorous that may be.
How has colourism affected you?
Colorism has highlighted the privilege I have as a light-skinned South Indian woman. Growing up, I was praised for my light skin and told how beautiful I was solely for having light skin. I never questioned these compliments until I realized that my darker skinned friends were told how undesirable their coloring was. While the preference for Eurocentric features in South Asian society can be blamed on the aftereffects of colonialism, our community cannot continue to perpetuate the stereotype that fair = lovely.
How do you think we can overcome colorism in South Asian society?
The only way we can overcome colorism in South Asian society is by encouraging diversity, highlighting the beauty of darker-skinned people, and becoming an advocate for yourself and our community.
What has been one way you have either used your privilege, or overcome your own self doubts caused by colorism?
My light-skinned privilege has given me the opportunity to confront colorist attitudes without having to bear the brunt of the emotional toll that comes with being at the receiving end of a colorist comment. These days when I am complimented for my light skin, my first response is to ask why that person is valuing something that is out of my control. Then, I usually follow up with asking them point blank if they think dark skin is “ugly” or “undesirable.” Unfortunately, many people do not stop to think about how problematic colorist comments can be. The use of “gori” or “goriya” as a compliment in Hindi is often defended as a colloquialism, but the root of the word still sits in “white”, and I have explained this to dozens of people, especially following the release of the song Beyonce Sharma Jayegi. Using my light skinned privilege to defend and uplift my darker-skinned friends is not only being a decent person, but is my obligation. Solidarity amongst all shades of skin tone is the only way we will overcome the problem of colorism.
Sukhjeen Kaur runs chronicallybrown, a community for chronically ill/disabled South Asians. Sukhjeen is passionate about creating awareness of health issues in the South Asian community, including the impact of colourism.
Why is talking about colourism important?
Colourism is when you avoid the sun to reduce the risk of your skin darkening. However, this can also risk vitamin D deficiency. Melanin doesn't absorb as much UV radiation, which means you are likely to be vitamin D deficient with darker skin. Avoiding the sun as well, which is the main source of vitamin D, can heighten this risk. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and osteoporosis in adults as well as it being the causes of multiple chronic illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.
What have been your experiences of colourism?
Being a light skinned Indian, I haven’t had many experiences of colourism. However, I have avoided the sun to fit in with white peers when I was younger. This may have contributed to my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has concluded in me to fight colourism to avoid this happening to others. When you lose your health, you realise how much we take our health for granted.