A Whiter Shade of Pale

The Chinese Whiteness Obsession

In China one color trumps all: white. White is beautiful! No Chinese will get the idea to call brown skin healthy or beautiful. The whole of East Asia is striving for the same goal: Being as white as possible.

Quite early on in our relationship my wife exhibited this very Asian attitude. Walking on the streets of Beijing she would nod at a passerby and make fun of her tan skin. Shocked I would simply answer with a nervous smile. My Western mindset smelled racism and if there is one thing Europeans or Americans are conditioned to, it is fear of being called racist.

Not so in China. No one cares. Because no one gets the idea that making fun of someone else´s skin color makes a racist. Even darker skinned people seem to agree that whiter skin is more beautiful. There are certain scandals (presumably influenced by Western behavioral standards) that have the black-white topic in commercials and TV shows at their core. But all in all, even thought there might be racism in China, it has little to do with skin color. This idea could be a result of American history more than anything else.

White is not racist
So, if it is not connected to race and racism, where does the idea come from? Chinese will answer: It is just a fact. Well, beauty standards might have some biological and maybe even genetic components. But they are largely based on cultural reasons, according to most scientists.

So, it is a remnant of colonialism in Asia. Right? Subconsciously Asians are conditioned to see their former masters as beautiful. O dear, our horrible ancestors. What have they done! They even pressured those pure, innocent cultures into hating their own skin color. Well, not really!

Then it exists due to the financial prowess of Western countries that somehow with their soft power also implement their beauty standards. Wrong again!

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