Skin Color Matters

Like many other people, I cringe whenever I’m routinely mistaken for another brown person. When I attended graduate school in the midwest, people repeatedly confused me with another desi woman in my class, Sheila, who looked absolutely nothing like me — the obvious difference being that Sheila was much lighter-skinned than I was. At least, to me, it was obvious. To other white people, it was apparently not. Never mind that Sheila was from India and a had a bourgeois Mumbai accent, whereas I was from southern California and talked like a valley girl. As far as other people at school were concerned, we were interchangeable.

And so, because of repeated instances like that, I had figured that brown folks were just more sensitive to skin tone differences than white people were. But apparently, that’s not the case. When I was at work yesterday, I caught this news blurb:

Light-skinned immigrants in the United States make more money on average than those with darker complexions, and the chief reason appears to be discrimination, a researcher says. Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants to the United States from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned an average of 8 percent to 15 percent more than similar immigrants with much darker skin. “On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education,” Hersch said.

While I don’t think her findings are entirely improbable, I’m curious as to what she defines as “one shade” of skin tone.

What’s also interesting that it seems the researcher compared skin tones within immigrant groups:

Hersch took into consideration other factors that could affect wages, such as English-language proficiency, education, occupation, race or country of origin, and found that skin tone still seemed to make a difference in earnings. That means that if two similar immigrants from Bangladesh, for example, came to the United States at the same time, with the same occupation and ability to speak English, the lighter-skinned immigrant would make more money on average.

So what does this mean? Contrary to my earlier beliefs, it seems that other people are able to distinguish between darker and lighter-skinned browns.

I also wonder why Hersch used immigrants as her subjects, and not second, third, or fourth generation Americans. Would the results be the same? I don’t know. I wasn’t able to find this particular study of Hersch’s online, and I usually prefer to link to original sources rather than the newspaper, but still, this is food for thought.

123 thoughts on “Skin Color Matters

  1. The major difference between Jaat/Jatts and Rajput is that the rajputs acknowledged Brahmins high standing in the caste system, and were themselves rewarded with high standing in the caste hierarchy. The Jatts did not, and were in turn classified lower.

    Rajputs are ksyatriyas right? Ksyatriyas were alwasy classified lower, at least if you read the Indian ancient and classic shastras.

    1. Brahmin
    2. Ksyatriya
    3. Vaisha
    4. Shudra

    Do Jatts stem from a ksyatriya background or either of the remaining two listed above?

    Vaishas and shudras are considered lower than the higher two listed.

  2. The major difference between Jaat/Jatts and Rajput is that the rajputs acknowledged Brahmins high standing in the caste system, and were themselves rewarded with high standing in the caste hierarchy. The Jatts did not, and were in turn classified lower.

    Rajputs are ksyatriyas right? Ksyatriyas were alwasy classified HIGHER, at least if you read the Indian ancient and classic shastras.

    1. Brahmin
    2. Ksyatriya
    3. Vaisha
    4. Shudra

    Do Jatts stem from a ksyatriya background or either of the remaining two listed above?

    Vaishas and shudras are considered lower than the higher two listed.

    CORRECTION; Meant to say that ksyatriyas were always considered HIGHER, as in high caste, not lower.

  3. Sepia Mutiny : Mutual masturbation of fucked up ABCDs. Its amusing to see you complaining of racial profiling when you ABCDs do it all the time – to other brown skinned people! I guess your most prized dream is to be confused for a white girl someday. Perhaps you can start by bleaching your skin white. This entire site reeks of ABCD ignorance.

  4. Dude I just linked to a song called Apna Punjab, all about pardesis longing for the desh……

  5. I think the study also suggests that taller people earned more, as well. The study quantified for education, but not quality, which albeit is hard to do, but does raise a question about the strength of the findings. The earnings were self-reported, so that’s a flaw as well.

  6. Folks,

    The Jatts are not Sudras. They have never accepted the Hindu cultural designation. Jatts are descendents of Scythic origins. Based on genotype the Jatts and Khatris are close to each other. Prior to the Muslim invasions there were many other invasions by migrating tribes through the Khyber Pass.

    Brahmins gave the title of Khatri and later in the 10th century Rajput, to those who accepted Brahminical rites. Majority of Jats are Muslim and Sikh. Hindu Jats have rejected Brahminism and have taken hold of Arya Samaj.

    http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/common_origin_croats_serbs_jats.php http://prabhu.50g.com/sakas/iscyth_history.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kambojas http://www.iras.ucalgary.ca/~volk/sylvia/Kurgans.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Scythian http://ossetians.com/eng/news.php?newsid=27&f=3&PHPSESSID=972db5bdc12ef0a97e9ca2098050629b

    Sycth_Jat

  7. The Jatts are not Sudras. They have never accepted the Hindu cultural designation. Jatts are descendents of Scythic origins. Based on genotype the Jatts and Khatris are close to each other. Prior to the Muslim invasions there were many other invasions by migrating tribes through the Khyber Pass…….Majority of Jats are Muslim and Sikh. Hindu Jats have rejected Brahminism and have taken hold of Arya Samaj

    I am guessing you are a Jatt, probably a pakistani punjabi muslim or an indian (khalistani?) sikh, who is ashamed of the low caste origin of Jatts because it does not jibe with your imagined racial superiority over the masses of desis from points east and south of punjab. Am I right or what? You can be as delusional as you wish Jes, but it wont change the facts will it? Punjabi Jatts were/are low caste sudras. Deal with it.

    Your post is full of ignorance and irrationalities. Did your supposedly “scythian” ancestors invade or migrate? How could “racially superior” and “martial” invading conquerors from central asia get assigned the servant caste status in the land they conquered?? What caste were the muslim, sikh and arya samaj jatts before they converted, if not low caste sudras???

    Like many other macaulayite fools, including many of the brahmins you hate for assigning your people the lowest caste, you have fallen for the mischievous white lie of color/phenotype = caste. God gave you a brain. Use it. If color and phenotype is the basis for hindu caste why are brahmins darker and less “scythian” looking than punjabi jatts, who in turn are darker and less “scythian” looking than pathans, and so on?

    OTOH, I agree with your contempt for brahminism which has been a disaster for India.

  8. Hello everyone,

    so, before we start let’s clear things up from the beginning: I’m a jatt sikh. Now, where should i begin? Racial supremecy? Castes? Where in th world did the concept that Jatt’s are sudra’s come into affect? If one is to take into consideration hindu vedas, etc. which dictate that the origing of the caste’s is from god’s face (bhraman’s), thighs (kshatriya), and arms(vaishya’s), wherein the sudra’s were born from god’s feet. Now, if you look into each of these castes, you will find subcastes. Regardless, when you look into the origin of Jatt’s according to hindu texts (that are the basis for castes), you will find that Jatt’s are said to have literally come from the locks of Shiva’s hair. That is the literal historic (can we call it history, or is it mythology?) definition of the word Jatt itself. So then, how does being born from the hair of Shiva equate to being sudra (which are born from his leg’s/feet)? Nonsense, i tell you.

    Now, as for the racial background of Sikhs, this is very much debated. Traditionally sources had dictated that they are scythians, however scythians come in a variety of subcastes. We know that they (as are many non-jatts) classified as aryans. But, next comes the question – where did these aryan’s come from??? Well…this is again up to debate. Many jatt’s can trace their ancestory towards iran, while others trace it to afghanistan. Then there is a third group, which traces their ancestory to the likes of Germany. These are generally the ones with surnames unique to themselves, the German’s, and the Irish/Scottish. Examples – the Hayer’s/Haer’s (Jatt Sikhs, Germans, Irish, Scotts), Mann’s (Jatt sikh, German), Bains (again, jatt sikh and german) and Hans (Jatt sikh, German and Swedish).

    Now, why are they different? Why do they look down upon the other castes, as someone has pointed? Well, ignoring the fact that i myself haven’t experienced any of this, i can say that they think very highly of themselves. This is due to a variety of factors, which can be summarized in the word: lineage. Jatt’s have traditionally forbidden intermarrage between different castes, and this is due to a certain pride in the retaining of their culture and their sense of superiority. Why might they feel different towards the bhramans and other hindus? Because of the fact that a vast majority of them have interbred with dravidians before the concept of castes had been institutionalized. If not, then it is also simply because of the lack of control over horemones which results in the formation of these socalled middle castes. Bhramans, on the other hand, have opted to retain an image of pure aryans, however upon checking their DNA, one will find that they have some mixing of mongolian and dravidian blood in them – however, this is really quite minimal.

    So, what are the jatts? Simply put, they were often allowed the position of rajput or kshatriya, and despite the common ethnic backgrounds, etc…they opted to remain as jatts and are scrutinized for doing as such. This choice was more probably due to differences in the ideals of jatts and the rajputs.

    phew. rant over.

  9. Hello all,

    i just wanted to post my experience n thoughts…

    The hardest part of my experience being an Indian girl growing up in the US was the awareness as a teenager of being different (and thus feeling different) and not a welcome difference at that age and even still now sometimes. I feel so completely and overwhelmingly different from Americans of European descent in the sense of having different skin and cultural heritage..

    Unfortunately, when I was young and still now, shame attaches to the difference because of my insecure mind, plus sometimes I feel anger at being born Indian, in the wrong place (America) where I didn’t necessarily fit in at all…

    More deeply, I feel the issue lies with wanting to be a part of the majority and also of wanting to belong. When everyone around you is principally white and you are not, you feel different and left out. This feeling is part of being in a minority and I just hated it!! I believe all people naturally WANT to be part of the crowd, part of the majority. As it happens, in Europe and America, the majority (in number and power) are of European descent..making these places suck in some ways for anyone not the same.

    I feel bitter and sad at times not to be one of them because I feel a disadvantage in some ways in America…

    My fantasy is if I had been raised in India, I might never have had to struggle this much with self worth around my skin color, but that may just be a fantasy. For example, my boyfriend is a native Indian, he has darker skin and he apparently struggled to accept his skin color..

    In the end, skin color really doesn’t matter of course…spiritually and morally.

    For some reason, however, still if I walk into a room full of white people only, I instinctively feel different. I feel very transparent, and I dislike the feeling. I have left places and events because of this.

    Lately, as I get older, mostly I want the feeling of being around people like me…whether that is culturally, or people who share my interests..Birds of a feather flock together…

    Mostly, it is self-esteem that I was lacking and still am a little…

    Thanks!

  10. And that is why tanning booths and the sunscreen lotion market are going bankrupt… ;-)

    Actually research has pale brown skin is more attractive than pale white or dark http://www.physorg.com/news78679968.html

    Many considered using blacks in advertisements to appeal to a growing black target audience but were concerned that use of blacks might alienate white consumers. Fortunately for advertisers and advertising agencies, research shows that white consumers react to black models in advertisements in almost exactly the same way as black consumers react. It seems that both groups prefer the light brown skin tone, whether it’s a tan Caucasian or a light-skinned African American.”

    So people of indian origin have brown skin are at an advantage

  11. I haven’t got the article at hand, but the average man without any flaws is the most attractive. That is why most people find persons of mixed race so attractive.

  12. Ya know, its sad, I won’t deny that I’m about as “white” as is possible for an american to be. But the fact is that I continually meet people every single day who discriminate on this basis. They do it from the smallest thoughts to the words they use. They seem to be totally convinced that a simplistic label based on the color of someone’s skin is the defining part of that person. Most of these people disgust me to no end but they make up the vast majority of people I encounter every day.

    Whats really strange is on some level I can empathize with many of you. I’ve lived in Northern NJ most of my life and if there is anywhere there is a huge racially mixed bag in the US, this is it. I go to the Mall and am usually the only blonde person I see. Doesn’t bother me, I think of it as “normal”. I went and visited Minnesota a couple years back and had to go to a Mall there, everyone was BLONDE!!! in fact it was so noticeable that I felt distinctly unconfortable. The complete lack of the multi shades of people I’ve become accustomed to was gone, mind you that was just my perception. What it would be like to be on the end of racial epiteths on top of that would have probably had me highly angry and fearful at the same time. So I can empathize to some extent, but I can’t walk in your shoes. Just know that there are many of us out there who enjoy mixed company more and do not associate with those for whom bigotry is a way of life.

    Javeeh Kan – I don’t think there is anything to a melatonin level argument. However, if you want to argue about technology being the indication of advanced society then yes, I’d say you are heading in the right direction. My opinion on this? Europeans had the guns, Asians and African’s didn’t. Pretty much one side had a bigger stick hence they got to make the rules. Stupid? yes, ignorant? yes, in keeping with the times and education of the people? yes. Something to be proud of? no.
    Chachaji, nice comments and your right about the raising of consciousness being key to not passing this on from generation to generation. I also think that education level has more to do with people acceptance of differences than not. Unfortunately the vast majority of the US (and probably “white” bah lets face it, european descent) is highly undereducated.

    Looking at the religious comments, its funny, I think every single culture out there has quite a bit of growing to do in this area. Multiculturalism is going to grow and we all must learn to deal with our past history and move beyond artificial segregations. We’ll get there, but probably not for another 5 or 6 generations at the very least.

    Pri, skin color is only one way to feel “left out”, I think everyone has those issues of one type or another whether its, too short, too smart, too fat, too skinny. I almost think we go out of our way to find these things to differentiate ourselves from those around us and then eventually obsessing over them in an unhealthy manner. Don’t forget that there are some people who just always seem to be left out cause they are just “too weird”.

    As for what Samir said, I tend to agree with the statement about what is most attractive, but then that is only my opinion.(as is everything I write here)

    Anyway this has been a fun diversion, I’m one of those who loves just debating these issues for the sake of debating them. I know I won’t change the world, but as long as I can make someone think a bit more I’m happy :D

    P.S. I came across this site looking for more information about Ms. Sabbithi and what is being done about her human rights. I ended up seeing this post and knowing that its something of a hot potato decided to take a gander at it. I’m glad I did, I don’t see the usual self-righteous anger rants what I see instead is a calm collected and rational conversation. So I’m glad to have stopped in here.

  13. i m lower caste in the hierarchy, but i can challenge very few people in india will be fairer than me, there is no inter caste marriage between my parents. my relatives are also fair

  14. here is mention of Jats in Deva Samhit� [207] in the form of powerful rulers over vast plains of Central Asia. When P�rvatī asks Shiva about the origin of Jats, their antiquity and characters of Jats, Shiva tells her like this in Sanskrit shloka-15 as under:

    महाबला महावीर�या, महासत�य पराक�रमाः Mah�bal� mah�vīry�, Mah�satya par�kram�ḥ 
    
    सर�वाग�रे क�षत�रिया जट�‌टा देवकल��पा दृढ़-व�रता: Sarv�gre kshatriy� jatt� Devakalp� dridh-vrat�ḥ || 15 || 
    
    Meaning - "They are symbol of sacrifice, bravery and industry. They are, like gods, firm of determination and of all the kshatriy�, the Jats are the prime rulers of the earth." 
    

    BUT, caste is retarted. You are either hot or not. You fat kids won’t understand that though. But whoever mentioned that nasal index shit, good job lol. Big nosed brahmins breathing in all the Jat man’s air lol

  15. Indians who discuss here should be careful in making comments because there are many anti-indians, foreign nationals who routinely pass off as “indians” posing themselves with Indian names. They never seem to get off our back..yea gods

  16. My parents are running about trying to find me a “fair” bride from pakistan. Their notion of extraordinarily beautiful potential (aren’t they all ?) is someone as fair as possible. I told my mom we are in Canada, every other girl is extraordinarily beautiful here (white girls), she looked at me with disapproving looks. Don’t matter, I’m running away from home in 2 weeks and plan to be completely estranged from this brown hypocrisy forever. I’m excited as hell.