Colorism/Shadeism Project

Manza: Being Black in Thailand

Last year I decided to become a a missionary in Thailand. I’ve been here for 5 months already and I’m loving it. It’s been the most exciting, exhilarating and challenging experience of my life. I live in the town of Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima. It’s about 3 hours from the city Bangkok.

    Korat is a small city so you can imagine how excited and amazed they are to see black people. I’ve never been stared at so much in my life; I literally turn heads, I even stop traffic! It was hard and really uncomfortable at first but now I’m used to it; I just ignore them and occasionally smile at them.
    There are too many words to describe what living in Thailand is like, but I love it here. Despite what you see on the news it’s such a peaceful country. However, living here I’ve been exposed to the way they portray beauty… as well as shadeism. Most Thais are naturally tanned, some are even dark, but unfortunately here, the darker you are the less fortunate you are. On the media you’ll l never see a slightly tanned or dark person. Seeing that made me realise why I would always see women and men with talcum powder on there faces. Why when I looked for cream for my skin it was all whitening products. They even have whitening deodorant! It really shocked and saddened me that they have to use such things to feel beautiful and accepted.
    When I was young, I had told myself that I wasn’t dark skinned; in the back of my mind I would always imagine a lighter me, who was beautiful and confident. It’s not till I went natural that I realised how disturbing my thoughts were, and I learnt to love the dark skinned person that I am.
    Living in Thailand brought all those sad memories back; I have such a hard time looking for beauty products without whitening in it. Shockingly, the big name brands we use in UK (such as Maybeline, Nivea and Vaseline) all produce and sell whitening products; they all promote that being white is more beautiful and accepted. Being dark skinned in a society like this can really affect you in so many ways. The Thai people who are dark tend to be less fortunate. The only advantage I have in Thailand in terms of getting a job, in education for example, is the fact that I’m British – if I wasn’t but could speak good English, I would be turned down. Even as an employee, if I were doing the same role as a white person, they would get more money than me. And here the system is, if you don’t like it, then leave. It’s so disheartening, and it puts me off wanting potentially live here; I don’t want to be given job based on my nationality, and be paid less because I’m black. Shadeism is my main issue with not wanting to live in Thailand, but it’s such a beautiful country, the people are so polite, I’ll be so sad when I leave, and despite living in an environment where dark is considered ugly, I will still maintain that confidence I found when I first went natural.

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This article has 5 comments

  1. Ben

    I enjoyed reading your article. Whitening products? Really? Many things in this world are beautiful…. Being brown is certainly one of them. 🙂

  2. The African-Italian Project

    This is such an interesting article. It’s incredible and almost weird to encounter this phenomenon, because when we think about the East, we never think about issues related to colourism, so thank you Manza for sharing your story with us all.
    A friend of mine shared a similar story in a comment on my blog about being black in China. When she arrived in China, she experienced these same issues and the interesting thing is the fact that people felt curious about her appearance not with malice, but because they do not see black people there.

    Very interesting and thought-provoking blog London Curls, I like it. Thank you for reporting and sharing your thoughts 🙂

    • londoncurls

      Sorry for the lateness of my reply! Thank YOU for reading 🙂 Its nice to know we share the same experiences as others.

  3. jasmine

    Agreed. Live here now and yeah… just an experience

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