Colorism In South Korea

Colorism In South Korea

"You look paler" is not a harmless statement.

Beauty standards differ around the world. Some countries may think blonde hair is prettier or that black hair is more attractive. Others may think that being tall is a virtue while others value shortness. But where do we draw the line between "beauty standards" and colorism?

What is colorism? And why is it so bad?

According to Colorism Healing, colorism is a set of "prejudiced attitudes and/or discriminatory acts against people based on the color (shade or tone) of their skin." With this definition alone, it's safe to say that most of South Korea (and other Asian countries) practice colorism. "You look paler," or "You're so dark," are not harmless, mundane phrases nor are they compliments or random comments. Those phrases hurt people emotionally and narrow our perception. It lends the idea that lighter skin is more than just preferred, it's "superior."

One of the more "well-known" cases of colorism comments in the K-pop industry comes from the popular boy group EXO. During a Taipei concert, Tumblr user Mikael Owunna witnessed former EXO member Tao introduce the members. When Tao got to Kai, a member that is known for his "darker" skin, Tao said: “He’s darker than me, isn’t he?” In reply, the audience laughed and agreed with Tao.

For reference, Kai looks like this:

So while his skin might not be the lightest in South Korea, he is by no means "dark" as people claim him to be. With just one seemingly harmless sentence, his entire value had been reduced into one thing: skin color. Tao used the societal values that lightness equates to beauty to claim that he has more value over Kai and is therefore superior

Mikael goes on to say that while working in Taiwan, he was told to stop drinking coffee because it would "make him blacker" and that his first-grade students wiped their hands on his skin to see if "the black" would come off if they rubbed it.

Unfortunately, the repercussions of colorism don't just stop at hurt feelings. Skin bleaching is a 10 billion dollar industry, and according to the World Health Organization, upwards of 77 percent of women in Nigeria bleach their skin, while 40 percent of women in China, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea have admitted to using lightening products. People feel "worth" with lighter skin and associate white skin with power, beauty and privilege. The lighter they are, the closer they are to value. And that's how white supremacy works. That's why colorism is a form of internalized racism.

When we belittle someone for their dark skin, we make it seem as if their dark skin is adequate enough, not beautiful. We make dark skin to be something dirty, something undesirable. Many Asian countries spend millions on advertising skin lightening creams and whitening products and while yes, it's true, that certain "lightening" products can mean to fade dark sun or acne spots, this is not always the case.

Sarah L. Webb from Colorism Healing shared, "After centuries of being conditioned to view white/European as superior and their own race and culture as inferior, many people were broken and eventually believed in and acted according to that dichotomy. It’s under those conditions that people of varying races came to view European ancestry and European phenotypes as superior to all else and as a means to a better life."

Or, in some cases, lighter skin meant that you did not have to toil long hours in the sun as a slave and that you were a noble, superior to those that slaved away.

Whatever the case is, colorism is harmful and only fuels the notion that "lighter skinned Asians" (or lighter skinned people in general) are better than their darker skinned counterparts. Colorism causes a person of darker skin to think this: if everyone is telling me that my skin color is wrong, then I must be the problem. What's to stop them from thinking that they need to bleach their skin to become better? Colorism is so incredibly damaging and in an industry as fixated on looks as the Korean entertainment industry, their "shortcomings" are only magnified and the comments deemed as "harmless."

As always, cultural context should always be kept in mind, but colorism is a system of internalized racism that contributes to external racism. It's something that causes people to loathe themselves for who they are — for something they cannot change. It causes people to believe that they are the problem when in reality, it's the world that needs to correct the ways it thinks and acts.

You never thought a statement like "You look paler," could be so loaded with centuries of oppression, humiliation and racism, right?

Cover Image Credit: Good Housekeeping

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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