When trawling Twitter to read about people’s accounts of skin-whitening, I could not find any. Generally, people post about everything, from what they are eating to random conversations with friends. Nobody had written ‘I have taken some time out to lighten my skin today’ or ‘I am sitting with bleach on my face while watching TV’. Yet, the skin-whitening industry is thriving more than ever and is engrained within our culture.

People lighten their skin but don’t openly admit it. Where does the shame regarding one’s colour come from? Why do people lighten their skin?

These are some questions I put to Film Writer and Director Stuart Gatt on the show. Stuart’s short film ‘My Beautiful White Skin’ follows the lead character Parita who is desperately trying to lighten her skin in time for a Bollywood dance audition. Although she has the talent, she is self-conscious and lacks confidence because of her skin colour.

Stuart and I spoke about the social, cultural and political implications of skin-whitening. We talked about how particular industries, like the one character Parita is trying to enter, favour fairer skin; how skin-colour affects people in the workplace; and Stuart’s believe that the Bollywood industry promotes whiter skin. We also talked about how having what is considered as dark skin affects people’s relationships and marriages.

But one of the most potent areas of discussion was the political implications of skin-whitening, as Stuart believes the entire notion of fair skin as more beautiful derives from, and is a product of, colonialism.  When the British ruled India, Indians were made to feel inferior and skin colour played a part in the inferiority complex.

With regards to British Asians, Stuart explained his belief that Asians living in Britain not only have an inferiority complex and self-hatred but experience racism too. Thus, the want for lighter skin prevails because people want to fit in.

Stuart argued that we should return to our roots and understand our history. Our history goes back before the British ruled India to a time when Indians were proud of their skin colour. I debated this by arguing that colourism dates back to the Vedas. Stuart could see how caste plays a role but argued active skin-whitening began after colonialism.

According to Stuart, if you know the reason as to why whiter skin is preferred – which is colonialism in his view – then you will do everything to resist it.

In fact, by knowing the history of colonialism and how it feeds the ‘fairer is more beautiful’ notion, you can begin to rewrite the history of colonialism by being proud of the colour that you are.