The newest trend on the beaches of China is the “face-kini,” a mask that covers the entire face, save the eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s a not-so-attractive accessory that screams a message louder than a simple fashion faux-pas: Asian people hate dark skin.
From ubiquitous caps to umbrellas on sunny days, we are taught to avoid the sun at a young age. Fair skin equates to beauty and dark skin equates to a lower class. It is a sentiment that originates from our history as an agrarian society where most people work in the farms and the upper class stayed inside. One would expect the aversion to dark skin would fade as Asia shifts towards white colar jobs, but the popularity of facekinis seems to indicate it is ingrained deeper into our psyche than we thought.
A preference for fair skin at first seems harmless. However, what happens when children that grew up believing that dark skin is bad become exposed to a multicultural society? People of the world are more mobile than ever. I’ve ran into a Nigerian man in Japan and a Chinese family in Mexico. What prejudices will Asian children carry when all their life they have been taught to avoid dark skin?
Black Boyfriend / White Boyfriend
The irrational preference for fair skin extends beyond fashion, reaching into our family life. A sad but often true experience with Asian Americans is the stark contrast in their parent’s reaction depending on the skin color of the person they bring home. If you ask an Asian women how her parents would react if she brought home a dark skin boyfriend and you’ll find the answer to be generally negative. With the older generation, there is no open malice for people with darker skin, just an irrational preference for those with lighter skin born from silly and outdated agrarian-society sentiments.
Get a Tan
Our cultural preference for light skin on ourselves causes an irrational bias towards those with darker skin. In reality, it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. But the fact is, it does matter. It matters to the older generation and chances are, skin color will matter to much of the younger generation that are taught to prefer fair complexions.
For our society to progress, we have to eliminate these irrational prejudices before they evolve into something sinister. It is an increasingly small world and we can’t move through it with a distorted view.
I suggest we start by taking off that facekini and getting a tan.
Son Dao says
I think this is ridiculous. On my last trip back, I saw women all covered up in full suit, gloves, hat, scarf in the middle of summer in Hue where it was 40ºC and high humidity all because they were afraid of getting tanned and looking dark. Misplaced priorities in my opinion.
Better to just keep their yellow asses inside the house if its so important to them.
Many Asian people don’t want their skin to become darker. Many Asian people look down on Africans. But I don’t think it necessarily follows that they hate dark people because they don’t want to be darker. Could it also be that there are actually Asian females that look better with fairer skin than with suntanned faces?
James H. Bao says
I argue that it does. We are essentially programmed to avoid getting a tan since childhood, creating a negative connotation with dark skin that spills over to other aspects of how we think. This becomes more evident when we observe how Asians treat people of other races (see the black boyfriend/ white boy friend example).
I mean, many Asian people, mostly women, don’t want their skin to become darker. Many Asian people, not necessarily women, look down on Africans. I’m not ready to say the two observations are cause and effect. If it were the case we would predict there would be significant pressure for most Asian men to stay light.
There are definitely reasons that would explain why Asians don’t like (other) colored people. Perhaps we’re focusing on the wrong reason.
Nam Nguyen says
Think we should face the obvious truth since racial discrimination is a sensitive subject in any civilized society: non-black races dislike blacks. It’s human nature to dissassociate from things that are black in color since it’s often associated with the devil.
People of all races are inherently discriminatory, and this social outlook sometimes carries over to people with dark skin (from non-blacks) whose stereotyped negative aspects include cheating, stealing, murdering, etc.
One rarely sees non-blacks venture into black or mexican ghettos for fear of getting robbed or shot at. Only in neutral settings such as supermarkets, schools, shopping malls, etc. that friendly interaction among races can be observed.
This is one-sided. Some wear masks, gloves, etc only because of the unbearable sunlight in, say, Saigon. Try riding a motorbike at 12:00 noon in May in Saigon and you’ll reconsider your comments.
Tony Le says
My reaction to the picture is simply visceral and on points of esthetic… the masks make them look like they are about to rob the Bank of China..
I visit Vietnam recently and I got upset seen woman using masks gloves, etc. These woman work so hard, taking heavy stuffs and they are submitted to a white standard of beauty for not to look like a peasant?! I’m not consider myself feminist, but see woman made me feel sad. In my country we use the expression: to cover the sun with a sieve. Woman should want to have more education, more respect…
In contrast, very pale Europeans and Americans that desire to be darker choose to tan. In fact, it’s institutionalized – there are tanning salons that purely exist to serve this purpose. Does this mean they aspire to be Black or indicate that society is starting to formalize racism against pale-skinned folks?
Lastly, let’s be honest- the masks aren’t sad indications of racist undercurrents; they’re hilariously awesome indications of ridiculous urban fashion trends. We’ve already seen the Accidental Chinese Hipster Tumblr; now it’s time to start the Accidental Chinese Mexican Wrestlers one.