Us Asians – Bengalis – love playing the race card outside of our homes and culture. We don’t get something we want, “it is because we are NOT white!”. However, did you know we are perhaps more racist than the infamous KKK?
The problem: we don’t see it as racism. It is just how it is. White is pretty, and dark is not. I have a sore spot in this department because I am dark – since birth (believe it or not aunty-jaans!) Some like to argue that I wasn’t this dark to begin with, but the sun must have burnt me. However, my doctors have put me on vitamin D tablets because I don’t get enough of the sun . So, what am I to believe?
Let me tell you a little story.
I didn’t realize I was “black and ugly”. The idea of how we looked on the outer never even crossed my young mind. It was first put to me by my own mother and later reinforced by the community. One of the earliest comment I remember is her saying, “You and an your brother should have been born with opposite skin tones”. My brother was much fairer than me (now he’s close to my shade of brown). My mum’s concern was, who would marry me? You’ll see that concern pop up in my other stories and ultimately realize that a Bengali girl’s life is perplexed by just that one concern. This is how the rule of color matching when it come to marriage works:
White male marries White female = “GREAT! They’re such a hot couple”
Dark male marries White female = “Okay, we’re praying their children get her skin tone.”
Dark female marries White male = “They’re an odd couple. Must have been love marriage. Here’s hoping the kids get his skin tone.”
Dark female marries even Darker male = “Aww, they suit. Does this room feel dark to you?”
When these rules are broken due to love marriage or perhaps some forward thinking people, the community always comments. The commenting is almost always criticizing the female. Her nose is too long, or her eyes are crooked and she walks with a limp. The male can be the hunchback of Notre-Dame and you will here nothing about it. Anyway, I am going off on another tangent – a true weakness of mine. This critical marriage rule system meant that my mum was seriously worried with how dark a man would have to be to marry me. And if by luck, a male who is lighter than me does decide to do the act of charity and marry me, how will she bare the criticism on how horribly dark and ugly her daughter is. Hence, she said it would have been better for my brother to be the dark one.
Oh it got to me then, and still bothers me a little. Us, “the new generation”, want to believe that we do not have these racist tendencies and to some extent that is true. However, I think it is going to take minimum two to three more generations before things change drastically. I have had enough of “Fair and Lovely” creams. I hope in the future they realize that that stuff is like bleach, it burns you!
Now, if we are so racist to our own, can you imagine what we are with you? Oh boy. When it comes to marriage outside of religion – it can be done. If the person coverts for the sake of it, it’s usually okay. HOWEVER! How-very-ever, if you marry out of “Bengali-ism”, it’s a sticky situation. Even within “Bengali-ism” there are strict boundaries. Having said that, quite a few have been happening – even in my construed colluded conservative family. A very dark uncle married a extremely fair Polish Woman [Convert]. A very fair Cousin brother married an even fairer Mixed race woman [Convert]. A dark Aunt married a fair Moroccan [already a Muslim]. And another Dark Aunt had married a very fair alcohol drinking non-Muslim White man; her marriage is a huge open secret. Everyone knows, but they pretend they don’t. So odd. Point to be noted, all those who married out of religion and culture still chose partners fairer (and in some cases extremely fairer) than themselves. So perhaps our conception of beauty is to some extent created by what we grow up with.
I argue that these marriages were accepted with a pinch of salt because their partners were “Fair and Lovely”. There is another case of a Bengali girl within the community who married her black boyfriend and is happily still with him with six of their own children. However, she has been shunned from the community. Her dad will not allow her back in. Further adding to my argument.
This leads me on to my next point. We are petrified of Black people. We are. The stereotypical image of them that the community has is that they are darker than the night’s sky and stronger than iron rod. I think history might have an element to play here. The British had ruled in the Indian subcontinent (where Bangladesh was) and ruled our people. We didn’t really overthrow them with force, but rather Gandhi’s passive resistance played its part. We are smaller and shorter than the average person due to genes and malnutrition; Black people (in our eyes) are not. And even being these big creatures, they faced some unbelievable injustices. They were abducted from their homes and sold like animals. In fact, America during their slave trade defined a Black person as half a person to stop them from having the full rights of a person. When laws began changing, the white supremacists formed the Ku Klux Klan and hung Black people publicly to spread fear and the message that Black people will always remain inferior. The stories of what they went through and how they survived to now having a Black President of the United States overwhelms the Asian community. The strength – both physically and mentally – of this group of people scares the living daylight out of my people. I also think there’s some element of resentment and annoyance towards black people, because they have the potential to fight back and fight back hard – something our bodies cannot match up to.
Now of course, all of this is very wrong and NOT always true. This is only what I have seen in my small community and what I have experienced. However, wherever I have gone – most Bengali’s have been the same. Not to mention, racism (or the idea that beauty is in a color) exists in all communities. Bengali’s are trying to bleach their faces white, while white people are risking skin cancer to sit in sunbeds to get more brown. Oh dear Lord, dear Lord!
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