In terms of communal identity, race, colour, ethnicity, and faith, the community we live in is psychologically fractured. Since a biological child begins to develop into a social being, it establishes the dominant sense of in-groups and out-groups. I conducted a thesis on socialization and prejudice among school children for my master’s degree a few years ago that highlighted the same phenomenon.
My research concluded that children’s psychological division into in-groups and out-groups is a function of their socialization at various levels of hierarchy, which ultimately leads to communal stereotypes and discrimination.
Socialization in the group
Socialisation, according to researchers, is the process of transforming a biological child into a social being by encapsulating desired and anticipated behaviours through various social learning processes. Is socialization, on the other hand, constrained by the boundaries of desired and planned behaviours? If this is the case, parents would never want their children to learn outside of their comfort zone. As a result, socialisation is described as the process of learning and being taught about a social phenomenon that exists outside of one’s desire and expected to upbring.
Since socialisation is a learning process, observation is critical to understanding and assimilating social visual veracities. After acquiring constant labels from the immediate agents of socialisation: intimate, parental, and social, it becomes legitimized and transforms into unyielding understanding. Eventually, such psychosocial labelling is passed down through the generations, resulting in communal stereotypes, a sense of dominance, intimidation, and prejudice.
The race is one of the social learning variables that children are regularly socialized with, according to my research. Despite their communal affiliation, more than 90% of respondents agree that the Madhesi community is dark or black-skinned, while the Pahadi community is fair or white-skinned. People initially say and mark any Madhesi person with fair skin as a Pahadi. Similarly, if a Pahadi person has dark skin, he or she is referred to as a Madhesi. This idea of children labelling a specific group solely on the basis of skin colour is not something they develop naturally, but rather as a result of socialization, which is injected by unvarying observations that are deeply rationalized by hierarchic socialization regimes.
Show business is a prejudiced market
Fashion and advertising agencies are equally responsible for instilling in people, especially children, the skin-colour-based stereotype and perception of dominance. Beauty product advertisements heavily promote white/fair skin as a sign of beauty, attraction, and trust that contributes to success, while dark-skinned people are portrayed as hideous, bland, unattractive, lacking confidence, and incompetent, necessitating a makeover for certain beauty products.
Despite the fact that skin colour has little to do with appearance, intelligence, health, sanitation, abilities, or any other human potentials, fair skin is often projected as the pillar of beauty, attraction, trust, and a path to success. It psychologically oppresses black/dark-skinned people by portraying them as grotesque, unappealing, and uninteresting characters.
Skin colour perception and understanding in society
Melanin, a pigment formed by special skin cells, is responsible for the complexion of the skin. This pigment is developed in response to sunlight intensity and has served as a natural evolutionary sunscreen for people living in equatorial regions where sunlight falls directly on them. The darker your skin is, the better it protects you from harmful UV rays. This shows that skin tone has nothing to do with caste, creed, gender, faith, or anything else. However, it has developed communal stereotype, bigotry, and bullying based on skin tone due to community-induced social understanding and acceptance of the same as an unconditional fact.
White/fair skin has always held a dominant role in the global social value of skin color, with black being labeled as the ugly color. According to study, black students in America experience more dominance and are often intimidated by their white peers. In comparison to white people, black people are more likely to be accused of illegal or anti-social acts.
When a fair-skinned person commits some social evil or immoral act in Nepali society, people criticize by saying, “Manchhe matra goro bhaera ke garnu, man kalo bhaepachhi” (having white skin is meaningless when your heart is black). People appreciate good deeds by saying, “Manchhe jati goro, man pain teti nai sapha” (The heart is as clean as the face is white). A ‘goro manchhe’ (a fair-skilled person) is assumed to have a kind heart in the first statement, and the color black (Kalo man) has long been associated with evil. A goro manchhe and a kalo man do not go parallel in this sentence. A goro manchhe and a sapha man (clean heart) are parallel in the second statement. No one, on the other hand, says “Manchhe pani goro, man pani goro” (the individual is as fair as his or her heart is clean) to describe evil or immoral conduct.
When a dark-skinned person performs service-oriented, philanthropic, or charitable actions, people always applaud and say, “Manchhe kalo bhae pani man chai sapha” (Although the person is dark, his or her heart must be clean). People say things like, “Manchhe jati kaalo, man pain testai kalo” (his/her heart is as black as his/her face) when they do something wrong. In the first statement, a “kalo manchhe” (dark-skinned) individual is not comparable to a “sapha man” (clean heart), which his or her positive actions reflect. The skin colour (black) and the behaviour (evil) are paralleled in the second statement as if they are synonyms. Evil deeds are never described as “white” or “fair-skinned.”
Transmission from generation to generation
In Nepali culture, the above comments are frequently made, demonstrating social psychology against skin colour. It has a major impact on the development of human behaviour, especially in children’s social learning. Children perceive colour-based prejudice, dominance, and bullying because of the stereotypical portrayal of the dark-skinned.
The majority of Madhesi people in Nepal are dark-skinned, not because of their communal affiliation, but because of their ancestral history of living in plains that receive a higher intensity of sunlight than the hilly area. People have developed a habit of associating skin tone with ethnicity, despite this fact. This triggers colourism psychology, which is passed on from generation to generation. Colourism has undoubtedly affected youngsters, who have internalized it as an absolute fact of communal identity and ethnicity.
Colourism, racial slurs, and teasing can be used for amusement or as a joke, but they have serious psychological consequences for those who are subjected to them. It fosters feelings of inferiority and isolation, all of which obstruct one’s social and professional functioning in the long run. A dark-skinned person is more likely to be subjected to racial slurs, teaching, and bullying, both of which lead to the victim feeling discriminated against, humiliated, and outcast.
This is more prevalent in school-aged children. They are particularly vulnerable to racial slurs and bullying. As a result, it has a negative impact on the student’s psychology and mental health, which can impede academic success, weaken peer-group functioning, and increase absenteeism and dropout rates.