A Journey In Black and Indian Love

A Peek inside the marriage of an African American woman and her East Indian spouse

That Pesky Skin Tone Issue April 2, 2009

True love knows no caste, creed or religion
True love knows no caste, creed or religion

Several years ago I posted a response to a woman who was dating an Indian man on a forum called www.Lovingyou.com . She was concerned about being accepted by the guy’s family because she was African American.  She had heard so much about Indians rejecting others because of their skin tone. My words to her were designed to offer hope and share my experience. Since then I get many emails from women (and men) who are dating an Indian partner and they are trying to demystify the whole process.

I wish I could the skin tone issue was simply an Indian myth or stereotype but it does exist. What is surprising to me is that it even exists among the darkest of Indians. I’ve often told M that it’s as though some Indians look in the mirror and see another image staring back at them other than the reality. The image they see is a throwback to the British colonialism days when white was right. Many Indians (espcially older Indians) still think that if they are ligher (or more fair as they call it), they will be accepted more easily in Indian society.  Sadly, in some cases this is true.

Take a look at some of the Indian matrimonial ads out there and look at the overwhelming number of them that describe themselves as wheatish or fair. It’s as though that is supposed to be some type of major selling point. Sadly for many, it is.

I feel so sorry for the darker skinned Indian girls who grow up in a society where the shade of one’s skin is more important than the content of their character. If they don’t hear the words spoken from others such as their parents, there are tons of ways society is reinforcing this backward way of thinking. For example, skin lightening cream commercials showing darker skinned women being turned down for jobs and then getting the same job after they’ve lightened their skin using the special cream. It’s sheer madness.

When my husband told his mother he had married an African American woman, he told me she asked if I was fair.  After my incredulous reaction, I think my response made my position on her question quite clear. Now, to this day he swears this conversation never took place. I think it’s because he knows my reaction will never change.  Let’s just say that part of my response involved a little neck swirling and eye rolling while I asked, “what are you going to do return me if I’m not fair enough for her tastes?” and “has she looked at you lately because you’re darker than me!” That’s the edited version of that conversation.

Here’s the nuts and bolts of the skin tone issue. Are there Indians out there who discriminate against others because they may be slightly darker? Definitely.  Are there Indians out there who still in this day and time refuse service to some people because they may be darker? Yep. Is it sad and pathetic, YES!  But for every one of those backward idiots there are those who show a different more sane way of thinking. They recognize that the outside of a person only holds so much. It’s what’s on the INSIDE that will sustain them over a lifetime.

This idea of darker skin being something evil or bad is steeped in history.  Many years ago (and in some villages even still) there is a lower caste of people called the Untouchables.  Basically, this group of people is considered to be too impure or unclean to be amongst those of a higher caste. They couldn’t drink from the same well and often had to ring bells to let people of higher castes know they were approaching and if they saw someone from a higher caste on the road, they were to get off of the road and yield to the higher caste person. They are banned from some temples and basically life is just miserable. Here’s a couple of interesting articles on the untouchables if you want to know more.  

http://www.untouchables.org

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0306/feature1/

The experience of the untouchables reminds me of what blacks went through during slavery and the period prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

If a man doesn’t want you because of the color of your skin then he’s not worth it. Consider it the best gift he can give you.  Until the next blog….

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3 Responses to “That Pesky Skin Tone Issue”

  1. Keri Says:

    I’m really surprised that no one has commented on this piece.

    This is the one thing that hurts me so badly, that because of my skin color AND ethnicity (African-American), I’m considered “less than” by so many people of other cultures, not just Indians, but Middle Easterners and East Asians as well. One of my good friends is engaged to an Indian guy, and when they went to visit his family in India, one of the first things his Mom asked her was, “How did you get so fair?” (as if she had anything to do with being born with light skin) I think that was the first time she let herself accept that they were going to be ok with her marrying their son because she was white. I had tried to explain that to her prior to taking the trip but (bless her heart) she didn’t want to think that they would treat her any better or different than they would treat me. Her fear was that they wouldn’t accept her because she wasn’t Indian and she didn’t want to think that WOULD accept her because she was white.

    I know that white women hate to hear, and some even take issue with the idea, that because of their light skin, the families are more willing to accept them. Of course, there are some Indian families that, for them, only an Indian girl will do. But I also know of too many people personally, and heard too many stories, where the parents threatened to disown their children if they married a Black person but were ok when they marryied a light skinned non-Indian. I even know of two who went ahead and did it and were actually disowned (both females, I don’t of any males that have had the heart to do it).

    While I’m still attracted to Indian men, I’ve mostly given up hope on finding one for marriage. The ones who “seem” to like me also need a green card (sorry, but true) and the ones who have the qualities that I like and desire are looking for someone lighter than me. It’s so sad that a people who pride themselves so much on their intelligence can still be so narrow-minded in this day and age.

    I’m glad that you found your Indian Raja and I wish you both all the happiness in the world. I’ll continue to watch my Bollywood movies, eat my Indian faves and work on my Hindi grammar as I wish for a more open-minded future for the next set of Black girls who love Brown boys.

  2. diverse Says:

    ” True love holds no caste”.

    I agree with that thought to the fullest .That was what I always taught.

    Before I graduated from college, there was this Muslim Indian guy in my religion class and there was n’t a day where didn’t stare at me( unless we was absent from from school). Even one of my classmates told me that and he would do it without blinking or saying anything to me. I didn’t want to read into anything as my mom told me a story about how a paranoid woman passerby thought that she was staring at her. I didn’t think he was being weird as he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary( Other than seemingly staring),though I wondered about his actions. Maybe there was something he wanted to ask me and didn’t know how to, maybe he thought that I was someone he knew and as that same classmate tried to imply maybe he liked me.

    I didn’t know what was up with him, but let’s say he was interested in me as more than a classmate? I’ve never had a problem with IR relationships/marriages. I’ve been attracted to all races /nationalities of men, South Indian men included. and there were also some of these men that have let me know( Mostly Black, Latino, Jewish , Filipino) that they had an interest in me,but I’ve always wondered about the ” what if’s”especially when it came to the IR relationships with South Indians . I know of some Black women who wanted to date/marry them, but always felt as Keri said, they feel that they don’t stand a chance with them because of their race and/or color.

    Though I had those same thoughts , there is another factor that may place a role into it: age. He was 25 at the time and I 36 . Although I had guys younger guys to approach me, I prefer a guy who is my age to their mid 40’s( I’ll be 39 this year). This applies to all races of men.

    Even though every body have their preferences into what they want in people, my mom often would tell not to be shallow with it. Not long ago, we was talking about a friend of ours , an AA, who had a thing for fair skinned AA men, with the so-called good hair and as she say, lots of moola. One thing that we all noticed about most of these light skinned men she dated, there was always something wrong with most of them. If they weren’t abusive to her, they cheated on her. She’s now married to a light skinned Black man. According to one of our neighbors ,who spoke with her mom in the mall, she’s very miserable. this man doesn’t take up time with their children,she has a job that she didn’t like and she lived beyond her means, now the IRS placed a lien on her home and cannot afford it because her hubby won’t help pay her mortgage.

    In high school, I remembered having crushes on boys because they were cute, but as we get older, we realize( at least some of us) what really counts in relationships. Whether I’am/not in a relationship( i’m not at the time) , I have always prayed that God would send me a great man in case I desire to get married. If there is anything that life has taught me is that a good man may not be always be to our liking, but it may be meant for it to be with that way for good reasons that are far better and logical than once’s skin color/race.

  3. indiangirl Says:

    Liked this video. It brought up a very relevant issue. Having been one of very few Indian people in many of the areas in the U.S. that I lived (when I was growing up), I was often very conscious of being darker than other people. But as a young adult, I always felt I looked better w/ a little more sun. So I actually went to tanning salons for awhile to get browner. Of course, this is unhealthy, so I don’t do that anymore. But I’m still a fan of brown skin, & I think that attitudes have changed a bit w/ the younger generation of Indian Americans. I think attitudes are starting to change in India, as well (as evidenced by the increased # of Bollywood actresses that are not light-skinned).
    BTW, the model in the video w/ the nose ring & brown skin was absolutely lovely. It’s amazing to me that anyone would think that she would look better w/ lighter skin. Her skin color is part of her beauty.


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