People who regularly tune into any Indian television channel are greeted with an oddly homogenous yet familiar sight. Nearly every single Indian commercial or television show portrays its main characters with purely fair features—pale skin, often lighter hair complemented with dazzlingly pearly grins. In fact, trying to prove otherwise will reveal an arduous task.
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Whether fair, dark, or any shade in between, most kids have skin that is generally the same color all over their body. But this isn't the case for those with vitiligo. Vitiligo is a loss of skin pigment, or color, that causes white spots or patches to appear on the skin. No one knows exactly why this happens, but we do know it affects people of both sexes and all races. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 to 2 million people have the condition, and more than half of them are kids and teens. The good news is that vitiligo — upsetting as it can be to those who are living with it — isn't medically dangerous. It's not a form of skin cancer, it's not an infection like MRSA , and it's definitely not contagious.
Every drug store sells multiple brands of skin-lightening creams, and your favorite actors all endorse skin-lightening products. For many women growing up in India, this is the norm. Colorism occurs when some people are discriminated against more than others of the same race, simply due to the shade of their skin. Sometimes, colorism is obvious, but often it manifests in more subtle ways, like in everyday behavior. Colorism is so ingrained in everyday life and society, in fact, that skin-lightening products make up a multi-billion dollar industry in India. Many Bollywood actors also endorse skin-lightening creams. While the media plays a large role in these notions of lighter skin aligning with beauty, colorism in India can trace its roots all the way back to British colonization. The British ruled many South Asian countries, including India, for over years. Their colonization embedded the idea that fair skin people were the ruling class , and darker-skinned people were the subjects. British rulers treated lighter-skinned Indians more favorably than their dark-skinned counterparts.