The "light Skin" Ideal

Discussion in 'Language, Arts & Culture' started by RD1, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. RD1

    RD1 Writer SPNer

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    Anyone else notice that in Sikh picture books for kids, and in Sikh animated films, that the Sikh characters are always portrayed as very light skinned? The Mughals are usually very dark skinned. I find this very disappointing. These visual in themselves are sending the wrong messages - good being light, bad being dark. There is nothing wrong with brown skin, and kids should not have to be ashamed, or learn discriminatory connotations for having brown or darker skin.
     
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  3. Sikhilove

    Sikhilove Writer SPNer

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    I wouldnt look too much into it. I have light skin and people dont think im good and usually dont even think im Indian. So the books obviously arent working!

    I did actually have a few exeriences at school where I felt discrimination for having light skin. I went to a basically all asian school and ended up looking for other kids with light skin to hang out with.

    Now in adulthood, I find that I am different to alot of asian women. It seems the culture now for asian women to be in cliques and wear alot of makeup. Ive been to a few weddings and wore minimal makeup and the reactions I got were awful! But it was a good social experiment and experience! lol
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
  4. Brother Onam

    Brother Onam Writer SPNer

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    On one hand, I think there is some historical truth to it. The gurus, from what I understand, as well as the Khalsa, were generally drawn from Aryan/Punjabi population, so I think it's fair to presume that they would have been inclined towards lighter complexions. The broad varieties of Sikh tonalities we see today are due largely to later spread of Sikh knowledge.
    On the other hand, though, you're absolutely right that artistry shows its biases. Sikhs (and the Hindu artists behind a lot of Sikh paintings) fall prey to subtle prejudices and subconscious racism as anyone. As you said, 'virtuous' and 'saintly' subjects in Sikh art tend to have glowing white or pink complexions, while demons, executioners, thieves, Mughals, or whoever else is representing wickedness are almost unfailingly presented as dark-skinned. These are deeply-entrenched conceptions and things we Sikhs ought diligently to root out, as they fly in the face of righteousness and spiritual truth.
    Forgive me for forgetting the specific story, but there is the incident told of how one of the Gurus was at a lakeside observing how, due to the holiness of the waters, black crows were entering the water and emerging as white doves. Give me a break. Tales like this don't exist without the deep-seated prejudices and fears people are prone to.
    ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਉ ਸਿਆਮ ਸੁੰਦਰ ਕਉ ਅਕਥ ਕਥਾ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਬਾਤ ਸੁਨੀ Ang 827
     
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  5. sukhsingh

    sukhsingh Writer SPNer

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    All imagery is hagiographic.. It's outrageous sobha singh has a lot to answer for!
     
  6. RD1

    RD1 Writer SPNer

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    Its very unfortunate that you had to experience the discrimination! No one should have to go through that.

    There is a difference though between having some people hold discriminatory ideas vs. widespread culturally/institutionally ingrained discrimination. And throughout history, there is clearly a culturally ingrained discrimination towards darker skinned people. I am sure we have all heard about the "fair and lovely" products. This perpetuates the idea that being lighter is "good" "better" "beautiful," and being dark is not. These books using illustrations that perpetuate this deeply rooted cultural discrimination is taking a step in the wrong direction. They implicitly reinforce that "virtue" is connected with light skin. While evil, as embodied my the Mughals, is dark skinned.
     
  7. Shiva Singh

    Shiva Singh SPNer

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    Sat Siri Akal,
    I find this topic very important. Racism is disgusting regardless of its form. I would tend to concur with Brother Onam's comment that historically it is not out of the question that the Guru's might have been from a fairer gene pool. I am a Caucasian Sardar of Greek ancestry and many South Asians are surprised that I am not Desi. I chuckled at the comment that Sobha Singh has explaining to do, but at the same time the horrendous images of Moghuls in Sikh art and Indian comic books is really too much.

    Just some thoughts.
     
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  8. sukhsingh

    sukhsingh Writer SPNer

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    I totally agree the type of stereotypes of Muslims in modern sikh art reduces all Muslims to evil caricatures whilst 'sikhifying' 'good Muslims' such as bhai Mardana. It really narrows the scope of enquiry and muddies critical rational debate.

    Why don't we recognise the contributions of the sons pir bhudhan shah in supporting and being a part of sikh history in a historical context. Why don't we celebrate through imagery mian mir? We tend to shy away from these subjects.
     
  9. RD1

    RD1 Writer SPNer

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    This is a deeply ingrained issue all over the world. Making "good" people light skinned, and "bad" people dark skinned occurs in other media as well such as Disney movies, and other cartoons, and even extends to Hollywood, where black people are traditionally stereotyped as "bad" and white people are "good," the heroes. We get conditioned to these images and ideas, and this can basically perpetuate subtle racism, whether we realize it or not.
     

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