Filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah on Shadeism

Actors Halle Berry and Lupita Nyong'o (Photos by left to right, Evan Agostini and Arthur Mola / Invision / AP)

Actors Halle Berry and Lupita Nyong'o (Photos by left to right, Evan Agostini and Arthur Mola / Invision / AP)


A conversation with journalist and filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah about a form of  discrimination known as shadeism. She is producing a documentary about the growth of the industry that feeds the notion that it is more desirable to have lighter-toned dark skin.

From time to time, when when guest host Rick MacInnes-Rae has been on assignment for the CBC, he's been struck by the sensitivity to skin colour ... not just white versus black, but between the different shades of dark skin. In Haiti, for example, a country with a proud revolutionary history, many billboards advertised skin-lightening products. These products are sold around the world, including in Canada, of course.

This is one of the side effects of shadeism, a kind of interracial discrimination. The idea is that a lighter tone of dark skin - in other words, closer to Caucasian - is more attractive and desirable.

Shadeism - how black one's skin is - affects many ethnic groups, including African, Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic, and it has been around for generations; but in recent years, it has become a growth industry.

Ms. Thiyagarajah has been investigating the impact of shadeism over the years and has been working on a documentary film on the subject. She was born in Canada to Tamil parents and her own experience with shadeism has been personal as well as professional.

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