Not only has the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US found support in several other countries including India, it has also sparked conversations about racism in several other contexts. How racism in India compares to racism in the US is of course a matter of endless debate. But certain behaviors here have certainly come into international limelight as quite questionable.
One of these is the obsession with complexion and the social hierarchies coded therein. Megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s more than a decade old endorsement of men’s skin-lightening cream Fair and Handsome has come into focus, as an example of influential campaigns that entrench discrimination base on skin colour.
Against this backdrop it is both notable and welcome that Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has decided to drop the word ‘fair’ from its four decade old skincare brand ‘Fair and Lovely’, whose sales comprise 40% of the sales in the face care category in India.
The renaming of a face cream does not amount to an end to colourism. But for sure it signals a cultural shift, about what is less and less acceptable in society. Indians have been buying this product since the seventies. Finally perhaps many of us are ready to ditch the internalized racism it represents. There is beauty in every skin colour. To recognize that is to be healthier and happier and fairer.