Prince Harry – A deeper dive into unconscious bias and Colourism
Well done Prince Harry for raising the issue of unconscious bias. A prince of the realm raising awareness like this can only be a force for good.
I was born in sixties London, raised in London, speak with a London accent but I still get asked where are you from. Belligerence and replying London doesn’t work the follow up being where are you from originally? I dismiss it as ignorance but it still annoys.
The fight for equality, the fight against racism has been around for hundreds of years, the relatively new LGBT and heightened awareness of unconscious bias are further steps towards a truly egalitarian society. Within unconscious bias, almost a subset of it, lies the issue of colourism with persons of colour willingly participating in this discrimination. Fair and Lovely cream used widely on south east Asia is an example of Asian bias against darker skin – the first and most vocal form of racism I faced was at school from two fair skinned Indian children mocking my dark skin, this had to be learned behaviour from their home environment.
Colourism has existed for centuries, part of the fabric of our lives language and culture. Blackmail, dark arts, black heart, blackball, black leg, black list and so on. There are positive uses, having a black Amex credit card, being in the black, attending black tie events all desirable but far more negatives than positives. My favourite villain – Darth Vader sinister all in black, the hero Luke predominantly in white constantly urged not to stray to the dark side. We can trace fear of dark back to the cavemen where venturing into the dark carried an increased risk of predator attack, are we still struggling to progress beyond that?
The Asian desire for fairer skin is ingrained in my culture, originally a rarity to be prized, valued and desired given a far more sinister tone with the advent of colonialism and slavery. The British Raj hiring fairer skinned natives to work in their prestigious government jobs, the slavers fair skinned offspring from raped captives allowed to work indoors, their brethren, the darker skinned perceived as less intelligent savages left to toil in the fields. Emotive words for an emotive subject.
Rihanna a beautiful Barbadian gradually lightens as the years roll whether this could be via make by, different lighting or by skin lightening. If such a positive role model seeks to change their natural beauty to fit western ideals what chance do the rest of us have?
Unconscious bias is an issue, maybe born more out of ignorance than true racism, now, thanks to Harry, a trending topic. Colourism, however, is far more prevalent, far more insidious and far more difficult to eradicate.