Towards a fair world

More than a cosmetic change needed

Towards a fair world

AS the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement found traction the world over, the debate over racial inequalities acquired tones that reflected localised versions of racism and colourism. In India, it was the trigger for the voices slamming the bias for fairer skin getting many shades louder. Hindustan Unilever was forced to take note of the public angst. Fair and Lovely, its top-selling brand occupying 80 per cent of the market share in the category of creams promising the ‘whitening’ of complexion for the past 40 years and lapped up by millions of women grappling with the belief that dusky skin was not beautiful, had come under fire. Exactly a month after George Floyd’s brutal death, the company announced that it would rebrand the product and drop the word ‘fair’. While committing itself to the ideal of a radiant and healthy skin of all colours as the desirable goal, it shied away from apologising for having caused mental agony to dark-skinned beauties with its promotion of the image of light skin as the epitome of beauty all these years.

A couple of weeks earlier, Johnson and Johnson, another global cosmetics giant, had decided to pull out the Neutrogena Fine Fairness line from the Indian market on the same grounds. The craze for paler skin types manifests itself most in the matrimonial arena as dark and dusky dames are often made to feel unacceptable. Influential conversations around the unfairness of it made the matrimonial website, shaadi.com, remove its filter for the skin colour after a petition called out the racial bias inherent in it.

However, these changes are merely cosmetic and just a small step towards that ideal fair world in which the diversity of the human race is celebrated. Such million-dollar businesses are likely to continue to flourish as their wares, though tweaked a bit in deference to popular sentiment, will not be starved of celebrity endorsements and gullible customers. This prejudice is too deeply embedded in our attitudes and approaches for it to vanish so soon. The ultimate game-changer lies in nurturing a mindset that is rid of the fetish for fair skin.

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