On May 25th , George Floyd, a black American man died as a result of his violent arrest by white police officers even though he had surrendered. They knelt on his neck for over 7 minutes thus cutting off his air circulation and even though he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe they did not let him go. This sparked outrage in the US as it reiterated the fact that unnecessary police brutality towards black people is prevalent now more than ever. Other victims of the recent past included Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, and Atatiana Jefferson to name a few.
This led to weeks long protests, assaults and riots calling for the Police Department to be defunded and the start of the Black Lives Matter movement which even spread to other countries causing people to rethink the way black people have been portrayed in the past and how we may be unconsciously promoting racism. Statutes of slave owners were knocked down, certain products depicting black women on the labels were taken off shelves and even popular cop shows like LA’s Finest and Brooklyn Nine Nine were forced to rethink their portrayal of cops.
For Sri Lanka this movement made us focus on our skin colour.
We pride ourselves on being known as ‘brown people’ or at least we should as a considerable portion of our population is. The fact that we are born with a natural tan, something foreigners try hard to achieve by sitting in the sun for hours on end should make us feel proud and thankful. Yet we still see problematic incidents depicting the fact that being brown is not beautiful. For instance the ads on TV whether it relates to school, tea, soft drinks, insurance, banks etc. the people in it are almost always fairer than the average Sri Lankan. We even promote creams and other beauty products to make us fair, the most prominent being fair and lovely as if to suggest that if you are dark you are automatically ugly.
Even if you check the marriage proposals at the back of the paper the first requirement for a bride above all is ‘fair’ and this also seen with regard to grooms, although to a lesser extent. When our country’s population consists of over 90% brown people the requirement and necessity to be fair is quite funny and unrealistic. This also throws light on the fact that brown people alone are putting themselves down by dismissing the colour of their skin instead of embracing it.
We even see brown-skinned public figures promote fairness products which is a shame given the platform they have as it would be put to better use to inspire people of all ages to embrace their colour and show them just how far one can go. Whether they actually believe it’s better to be fair or whether they do it for the money the fact that it has become a normality to have brown people promote fairness products is truly shocking.
A simple remark we hear when growing up is ‘don’t go in the sun you will get dark’ but what is so bad about being dark? This shows us how ingrained this colour issue is in our country. There’s nothing wrong with getting a sunburn, sure your skin will start peeling for a few days and be quite dry but nothing a little cream can’t fix. The fact that we want our brown children to be fair speaks volumes as to the society we are creating and encouraging as parents and adults.
One of the more positive things to come from this movement is the fact that Unilever is rebranding their product fair and lovely so as not to include ‘fair’. Social media also had more shares and posts related to being brown and proud which was refreshing. The BLM Movement is only the beginning and we have a long way to go but let us hope that the future generations are not subject to this idea that being fair is the only form of beauty.
One cannot claim to love one’s country without fully embracing all the qualities that make you identifiable as a citizen of said country. As a Sri Lankan the colour of our skin is one of the most prominent and best things we have and we should truly be proud to be brown skinned.