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18 Aug 2019, Edition - 1496, Sunday

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Racism is more than skin deep – Are public personalities responsible for callous endorsements?

Indrani Thakurata

Bengaluru: “It’s a colonial hangover to be fair. India has an obsession with fairness when the entire world is lying under the sun and getting a tan,” Randeep Hooda was quoted when asked about our prejudice against dark skinned people. I am not sure if it is a colonial hangover, but surely when a certain celebrity talks against such practices openly, we have many listening. So it will not be an exaggeration if we say that celebrities have a responsibility to fight against such social biases.

The recent row over a remark by the Former Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay on channel Al Jazeera’s online show reiterates our deep-rooted bias against the dark-skinned and also highlights the racism that we often cry hoarse in other countries. He was there to discuss the string of attacks against African students in Greater Noida, and his defence left us astonished. “If we were racist, why would we have all the entire South…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra…why do we live with them? We have black people around us.”

To raise awareness and call the hypocrisy that is deep-seeded, Abhay Deol named and shamed many of our celebrities who endorse fairness cream, and endorse twisted ideas of success and confidence that come with fair skin. We applaud the courage and the thoughtfulness of the actor to have raised a pertinent debate. But he is not alone when it comes to taking a stand against such racism.

We name some socially aware and responsible stars who have refused big moolah to send out the right message. Kangana Ranaut is one of them. She does not regret turning down an offer of Rs 2 crore for endorsing a fairness cream. Upen Patel and Ranbir Kapoor have also turned down similar offers, taking a stand against such racial stereotypes. “It is important for celebrities to own up to their responsibilities. They have a huge fan following and if they propagate such ideas, then how would we fight such thinking,” says Parimita Chakravarty, entertainment journalist.

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