Shadeism, skin tone discrimination, is a pernicious aspect of the lived experiences of all folks of colour, across socio-historical contexts. What I mean to say is, people have always perpetuated and experienced prejudice and discrimination based on their skin tone. It impacts folks in ways both familiar and more nuanced than racism; it happens within ethnic groups and across ethnic groups. This topic hits close to home for me, and you and the larger South Asian diaspora.
I was the first Canadian graduate student to study the beauty practice of skin lightening and South Asian women in Canada. My ethnographic exploration took me into the salons and beauty parlours of women who offer skin lightening products, procedures and treatments as well as the women who undergo them. What I learned forced me to radically reshape my own understandings, viewpoints and judgements around social capital, gender, race and agency. My research in shadeism went on to receive national recognition, win awards and remarkable scholarships. My work identified a gap in our academic and cultural understanding of race and beauty. Learning and unlearning my own biases around this topic is a journey I am still on today. Since my fateful 2017 research and writing, students, artists and creators have reached out to me, sharing the ways in which they’re continuing this conversation. It makes my heart swell.
The Shadeism Series Podcast recognises the need for us to share these stories in an accessible way, about the people, with the people. This podcast is a collection of conversations with the world’s leading thinkers on shadeism. This season features the voices of journalists, documentarians, scholars, industry leaders and authors, including two experts who testified in the first ever case of skin tone discrimination in the American court system (IYKYK). Each week I explore a new angle of shadeism, from the historical legacies of the caste system and colonialism, to the Unfair & Lovely campaigns, into the ways in which AI can solve and perpetuate the pigmentocracy and everything in-between.
If you’ve ever been told to stay out of the sun, this podcast is for you.
Available for streaming and download on all podcast platforms.