In the U.S., the conversation surrounding racism is one that dates back centuries. But discrimination based on the color of one's skin is an issue that manifests itself in different forms across different cultures.
In South Asia, colorism has long relegated dark-skinned women to lesser status. Whitening beauty products are a booming business that profits off cultures valuing fair skin over dark skin. In fact, one of the most popular — and controversial — facial products in India is a whitening cream called Fair and Lovely.
Fed up with the colorism that they face every day, three friends (one Black, two South Asian) from the University of Texas decided to launch the #UnfairAndLovely campaign to challenge these beauty ideals.
"We decided to name the series Unfair and Lovely in order to address the hyphenated identities of people of color in the West, and colorism in the Black and brown communities," Mirusha Yogarajah, the campaign co-creator alongside her sister (both pictured above) and photographer friend Pax Jones, told USA Today.
Yogarajah said the idea for #UnfairAndLovely came about when they had a discussion about how well-known advocates against racism, sexism, fatphobia, and the like in the Black and South Asian communities were typically lighter-skinned. So they decided to do this photo shoot and create the hashtag.
Taking place alongside Reclaim The Bindi week on March 8-14, the campaign encourages people of color to share photos of themselves and their experiences with colorism.
The response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Yogarajah told A Plus:
I think it has made an impact with people because they are seeing images of people like themselves that are reinforcing that they are lovely — whether it's through intelligence, beauty, etc., as dark-skinned people we don't encounter images of ourselves in the media that often. To see dark people of color whose features are just as non-Eurocentric, and skin as dark as yours, is liberating. It's a denouncement of a system that has consistently been reinforced to hinder you.
Most of childhood and adolescence I was constantly compared to my fairer sisters and mother, told to use lightening creams by busybody aunties, at my wedding in India my skin was bleached while I protested, but was ignored ... this is a sickness in our culture. Beauty does not have a color, dark is lovely!
Growing up desi, you learn to deal with a lot of things. For a long time, I was so uncomfortable with my skin color. I tried many skin lightening creams and bleaches (fair and lovely being one of them) just to make myself look and feel prettier. I hated getting tans and would do whatever I could to be lighter. But with the help of this movement, I'm starting to love my skin color and the beautiful culture and history behind it 💖 #unfairandlovely
Though the campaign primarily features South Asians, co-creator Jones tweeted that #UnfairAndLovely is for all dark-skinned people of color.
"I want dark-skinned folks to feel pride in their color," Jones told A Plus. "I want a destruction of colorist thought that places light skin above dark skin. I want acknowledgement of the critical intersection at which colorism rests. Regardless of what friends, family members or media convey, dark skin is not a misfortune. I want everyone to understand that. I want #UnfairAndLovely to help us do all of these things."
Follow the campaign on Instagram.