What color skin do you want to be when you grow up?

When you were growing up, did you know what color you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you even think about it?

Teenagers in the US brag about their tans but don’t have to answer why they tan. Instead, a tan is a trademark of sunny days lounging,  vacation, and, ultimately luxury.

In contrast, when I was a kid, I was told to always wear sunscreen, cover up, and always told to have ‘less brown skin.’ Asian culture practically dictates skin lightening as a must. No matter what color you started out, lighter = better.

So…I felt weird for having brown skin. I didn’t look like the people around me, so people could say things like “your skin is the color of poop.” (Yes, that happens to people, not just comedians who can use it in a joke later.)

Sure, in recent times, TV has made some gains. But it’s not enough for people to see people who look like me on screen. Even if characters are in new shows, they’re usually in the same stereotypical roles, over and over again. Listen up, media world: Not all Indians are scientists or doctors.

I mean, we are in 2018 right now, and look at this list!

Only 20 programs from the 2000s are headlined by an Asian lead. How can we know what makeup to buy, clothes to wear, things to say, if we have nobody to model? (I’m only half-kidding. Growing up, I was always glued to Lucky and Self, hoping they’d one day catch on that we’re not all size 0 blond haired blue eyed angels who can wear whatever we want and still get compliments…Self finally caught on this year and is featuring women of different shades and ethnicities, but Lucky‘s now defunct.)

But this list is even more dismal – FIFTY shows are called out for being racist. (I guess shows like NCIS and Homeland hide their racism a little better, because they weren’t #1 on them.)

Hearing Priyanka Chopra was passed over for roles because her skin is not blanched white is not even surprising. Despite being known internationally, she’s still held to that same unfair double standard that brown people in this country are faced with every single day.

Oh and, before you say it – yes! There are some roles built for Asians, but there still aren’t enough for young kids to see and feel like they’re part of something bigger. There aren’t enough to dispel stereotypes. And there certainly aren’t enough to make a change in people’s perceptions of a religion.

American culture loves “exotic” looks and seeks out characters that are beautiful according to American beauty standards, but also says you can’t be “too” exotic. Those standards of stick-thin, big-chested, small features, light and long hair, and tanned skin are not the norm for many American women, and are patently unfair to those of us who don’t fit that mold.

So, which color wins?



3 thoughts on “What color skin do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. And this isn’t a problem in TV/movies only. Even in literature, in 2018, diversity is still lacking, especially with what the teach in schools. I write a column for a local magazine about young female writers and nearly every, single girl I interview says something to the effect of “I just didn’t see myself represented in books growing up.” I think in lit it’s starting to change but it just seems crazy it’s taken so long. This blog is great! Thanks for sharing your insight!


    1. YESSSS!!! It is starting to slooowly change in literature. I went to an author event a few weeks ago and there were so many of us there that told the Pakistani-American author THANKYOUFORMAKINGUSFEELHEARD! I bet you already have a stack of books to get through, but if you ever want some diverse books I am happy to recommend some.

      Liked by 1 person

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