newritings

May 9, 2008

What Shahrukh Khan needs is a few lessons on black consciousness

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 1:52 pm

Shahrukh Khan can never rid himself of his skin colour, ask Michael Jackson. It has been reported that many are up in arms over his new TV advert but millions are happy of this new cream, Fair and Handsome. Khan has endorsed a product that promises the world: Emami, in collaboration with Activor Corp, USA, herbalists and dermatologists from India has created a unique fairness cream for Men with a breakthrough Five Power Fairness System to make skin fair and handsome in 4 weeks. (see ad) These and other falsehoods are being sold with the name of the famous star of the Bollywood screen. But what Khan really needs is not a cream for the outside but something for the inside.

Khan needs a little of consciousness of his blackness, as a first step towards recovering his true humanity. Who better to teach him than Steve Biko?

As far back as 1971 Biko, then a young student, wrote for a leadership training course of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) that being black was not to be a source of disempowerment but a rallying call for unity of those “whom by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group.” He further pointed out that firstly, being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Secondly, he wrote that one has to accept one’s “blackness” then ”you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”

Unfortunately for Shahrukh Khan, by endorsing such products sells not only the product but himself as an actor. More importantly, he sells the myth of racial superiority, and that fair is lovely. The mass media and here TV remains a prime culprit with its blatant and manifest alliance with the advertising industry that has not informed us of the dangers both medically and socially of these products. What a shame, the BBC report by Naresh Puri, which I sourced through the company website, did not do better.

Under the guise of giving both sides of the story, it had interviews with some detractors, but replayed the company and interviewed the distributors in the UK, without even investigating the contents of the Fair and Handsome Cream. Little wonder it had the company endorsement! The report did point out that skin lighteners are now a 90 milion pound industry in India alone. But did not explore any of the claims of getting skin to be lighter, and giving protection for UV rays, etc.

One wonders if this type of balance would have been acceptable to the BBC if it dealt with Alzeimer or breast cancer?

We must organise opposition and protests against the actors and the manufacturers who, in seeking new markets, add pain to the commercial exploitation by reproducing myths of racial superiority. Equally culpable is the global advertising industry (this is a gigantic subject and must be for a separate interrogation), working closely with the mass media, for spending millions of dollars promoting values of global capitalism, where there is only room for a tiny, miniscule elite, who profit on the suffering of the majority. In the meantime, I sincerely want to dispatch a copy of Steve Biko’s book I write what I like to the now white Khan.

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1 Comment »

  1. What an excellent article. It’s always been strange to me how we as human beings can so easily be convinced that what we are is not good enough.

    Comment by Vicky — August 12, 2009 @ 4:00 pm | Reply


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