Renowned director and cinematographer Vic Sarin set out of a journey of self-discovery. After having traveled the world and after becoming a huge success, he still continued to feel like an outsider. This kept him from getting close to his three children. In an attempt to find answers to his soul’s deepest desires, he went to Brazil, to a country that always made him feel at home because of the presence of so many different hues. His goal was to understand the color conscious society that influenced his upbringing.
As he sits on the sidelines and watches his family enjoy the sun and the sea, he longs to be able to be out there with them. His children know that he hates the sun, but what they don’t know is that the way he was raised did not allow him the freedom of enjoying it.
Growing up in India, Sarin wasn’t sure of what his color was, but the one thing he knew for sure was that he didn’t want to be any darker. No one did. He loved to feel the sun on his skin but as soon as he stepped outside, his mother would tell him to get out of the sun because his skin would get darker and that was not a good thing.
Such a seemingly small act had a profound impact on Sarin’s life and even though it was never talked about, they were all very aware of how quickly they were judged within their own society, based on the color of their skin. As a young boy he wondered if people in other places had a similar experience. Although is parents never discussed the differences in color among family members, they would openly talk about the differences in other people.
Jamaican author Joyce Gladwell states that people are automatically classified as superior or inferior based on their skin color, facial features, and hair type. She calls it pernicious because of the havoc it can wreck in a person’s sense of being. Gladwell, a ‘nice brown lady’ by Jamaican standards, grew up with the understanding that lighter skin was superior to darker hues.
Elvie Pineda, a skin-whitening expert in the Philippines recalls how as a young girl she had very dark skin. Her lighter classmates had friends and admirers, but she had none of that because her dark skin made people believe that she was low class. Pineda recalls how her classmates would call her ‘baluga’ the Tagalog term for nigger.
Eva Abrahams, a minister from South Africa, remembers how racism among people of the same race was rampant when she was growing up. Those with lighter skin would discriminate against the darker ones calling them ‘nothing’ and ‘kafir’. And she learned what a huge difference color makes and that the pain this produces is not easy to forget.
What extremes are people willing to go to just to, have lighter skin?