by Aditi Mehta – University of Texas
One of our staffers, Jihii Jolly, discovered this wonderful documentary called “Shadeism”. Created and narrated by Nayani Thiyagarjah, the 20-minute movie explores the concept of shadeism, the discrimination between lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community.
The documentary is a moving story following various young women in from different backgrounds, including African, Caribbean, and South Asia. Thiyagarjah did a spectacular job showing how the concept of shadeism impacts women from all backgrounds and how actually pervasive it is. It was heartbreaking listening to her little niece, age 4, describe how her skin wasn’t pretty and that being white was better. The documentary gives a glimpse of how early many girls feel inadequate and want to change the way they look.
Thiyagarjah also interviewed several experts to explore the shadeism’s origin. Though many cultures believe that colonialism brought a large degree of the discrimination seen in many cultures based on skin color, Professor Hira Singh from York University also presented the religious origins of skin color issues from the Ramayan. For example, religious texts have always presented gods such as Rama as the “fair” good prince fighting the “dark” evil king Ravana.
Thiyagarjah also presents the pervasiveness of pigmentocracy, social structure based on whiter people on top of the social ladder, in Carribean and African cultures. As disheartening it is to learn about the negative effects of shadeism, Thiyagarjah presents ideas on what we as women can do to combat the issue and even help future generations love themselves regardless of skin color.
Take some time to watch this moving documentary. You won’t regret it!