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open malice for people with darker skin, just an irrational preference for those with lighter skin born from silly and outdated agrarian-society sentiments.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.