Color Bias in Asian Communities

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research on colorism. It’s my next “thing” to write about. Of course, as a Black woman in America, I know all about the color complex in our community. From birth I’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that Black people come in two flavors, light and dark. Interestingly, I never knew what flavor I was, and thus never suffered from a true color complex, but I can’t say I was unscathed by its limitations.

These days, however, I am looking at other communities to see how colorism plays out. And boy have I been shocked to see how deep color bias is in Asian cultures. Now, first let me say, Asia is an enormous area and I am obviously not talking about every single Asian country. But when I recently came across this article in the New York Times about Chinese woman wearing hideous ski masks to the beach to protect themselves from the sun, I really started to pay more attention.

I’d rather be hot and hideous than dark and lovely?

There is a line in the article about this ski mask trend when the reporter asks a woman why she would wear a mask to the beach and her response? ” I’m afraid of getting dark…A woman should always have fair skin. Otherwise people will think she’s a peasant.”

Soon after reading that article, I saw this television ad for a bleaching cream sold in India. The cream is made specifically to lighten a woman’s lady parts. Take a look at the “Intimate Wash” video and try not to laugh.

Beside the fact that the woman is already pale as snow, the advertisement seems to suggest that only until her vajayjay is equally pale can she truly be happy and will her man find her attractive. The hype about fair skin in India is overwhelming and affects both men and women, young and old.

Finally, on my last stop of  the Asian color bias tour, I read about a new indie film called Bleached, about a young Fillipino-American whose mother sells bleaching cream and wants her daughter to be her model. It looks like a great movie, but it also says more about colorism in the Asian community.

So, dear readers. Tell me what you know or have experienced with colorism in the Asian community. Is it talked about openly? Do certain cultures prize lighter skin more than others? Is darker skin always associated with peasants?

I’m totally listening.



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6 Thoughts to “Color Bias in Asian Communities”

  1. I personally find the idea of « rounding out » the eyes or nose jobs far more frightening concepts of beauty enhancement than staying out of the sun. But then, what do I know? I’m already brown. (wink)

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      I agree. Any type of cutting seems extreme to me too. But, I’m not going to lie. If I saw someone at the beach with one of those masks on, I’d probably scream and run.

  2. Soy yo

    I have been aware of this due to growing up in the San Francisco bay area, with many Asian friends and also the fact I love to read Asian authors.

    What the masks made me think of here was pussy riot!

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Soy Yo,
      How’s it going? Thanks for joining us on the new Meltingpot. And it’s funny, I always had Asian friends, but was never privy to an Asian community growing up. So I never really heard about colorism with Asian people. I’m just now catching up.

  3. Cyretha

    Yes, this idea of hidding from the sun has been around for along time. Just think about all those paintings you see in the great museums of the world and not one person who considers himself or herself of the wealthy class will look anything other than pale.

    I have seen Asians, primarily Chinese, Korean and Japanese ladies, covered with long sleeves and umbrellas on days when the sun is high in the sky, be it either in Europe or Asia. I have also read about a “whitening” or “bleach” type of cream that some use. Yes, so while Europeans/Americans will race to the beach to get some color, Asian women will avoid it like the plague.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      I’ve also found it so funny that White woman will fry themselves in the sun to look healthy and pretty, while other cultures, where the people are naturally infused with melanin, work so hard to ‘get paler.’ But this is so much deeper than a ‘grass is greener on the other side’ scenario. Don’t you think?

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