So, about Gary Becker on prejudice

In her post she savaged the idea that skin colour, and the widespread bias against people with darker tones, could be a joking matter. “In a country where … people don’t get jobs because of their complexion, where every matrimonial advert demands a fair bride or groom … in a country where dark skin is marginalised, making fun of it is not a roast,” she wrote.

The open celebration of fair complexions in India can be striking. One of Bollywood’s most popular songs last year was the syrupy Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan, performed by a lip-synching Sri Lankan actor, Jacqueline Fernandez. All the rage at Indian weddings, its refrain goes: “Please agree, take me shopping. Please listen, show me a romantic movie. I ask you, white wrists, I’ve got white wrists.”

It’s not just India of course. Common across much of southern Asia.

In part the preference for light complexions in India is a colonial hangup. “Remember, we’ve been ruled by fair skin,” said Hansal Mehta, a veteran director, writer and actor from Mumbai.

But Chatterjee, in her post and subsequent interviews, put the blame on an older blight: India’s tenacious caste system, a rigid social strata that some scholars trace back three millennia to the epic folklore that forms Hindu orthodoxy.

“Upper caste equals fair skin equals touchable. Lower caste equals dark skin equals untouchable,” Chatterjee wrote in her post. “Yes, I have pronounced it. Probably most of us will not admit that our hatred for dark skin also comes from caste bias.”

Yes, but not exclusively so. It’s perhaps more deeply rooted in India because of caste. But you can find the beginnings of the same thoughts in Jane Austen. Mother fussing about the girls wearing bonnets so they don’t get the sunshine and thus freckles. Any form of tan might indicate, as with freckles, that they were girls who actually had to work outside and thus were common.

This entirely flipped, and quickly, with indoor work and foreign holidays.

However, to Gary Becker. He said that such prejudice was costly to those expressing the prejudice. Those discriminated against were therefore cheaper in the marketplace than those not so. Meaning that a young man in search of a wife might well now deliberately seek out those with darker skins. For the same set of attributes that he has he may well be able to trade for a sweeter nature, a better dowry (hey, this is India!) or a better pair of bazoombas. Or, if he’s actually serious about the wife bit, a better cook.

Yes, I know, how patriarchal and sexist of me. But the increasing urbanisation of India is going to lead to this happening anyway. For the larger the market the less such discrimination is going to “work”.

24 thoughts on “So, about Gary Becker on prejudice”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    For the same set of attributes that he has he may well be able to trade for a sweeter nature, a better dowry (hey, this is India!) or a better pair of bazoombas.

    Sure. But he will also have to accept it will be harder for his daughter to get married or for his son to get a good job. That is assuming that darker skin does not bring with it genetic differences that matter.

    But the increasing urbanisation of India is going to lead to this happening anyway. For the larger the market the less such discrimination is going to “work”.

    Really? I don’t get this. It is true that the market place will probably put paid to caste because employers mainly care if you can do the job. However I see no reason why mere urban living will put an end to other forms of discrimination. A darker skin for your children is a problem the market is unlikely to solve.

  2. Have a look at London. By the second and third generation there’s not that many Afro-Caribbeans left…..

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Worstall – “Have a look at London. By the second and third generation there’s not that many Afro-Caribbeans left…..”

    No. By the third generation there’s not that many Whites left. You have not proven colour does not matter. You have shown that British people have been taught to be ashamed of their race – and of course that Afro-Caribbeans come from the other side of the Hajnal line and have no cultural expectation of providing for their offspring.

    This is a special circumstance to Britain. Africans do not find many Indians willing to marry them. No welfare state for one thing.

  4. Won’t the offspring of inter-caste marriages be classified as the Indian equivalent of South Africa’s “coloured”? This means they risk being outcasts to both sides.

  5. Interesting post.

    I’ve long had a thing for gals of particular racial types, but rarely find white gals physically appealing.

    With hindsight, i think this tendency may derive in part from my (subconscious?) judgment that I would find it harder work to achieve my gal goals with white gals … but it’s not really that straightforward, either. I’ve found sinic female faces overpoweringly attractive and exotic (I know, i know) since i was a young boy, and that’s fairly primal.

    Still, I wonder to what extent one’s ‘type’ is driven, reinforced as it were, by success with that type, even where experience ought to say, “move on, laddie!”

  6. ‘birds of a feather flock together’.
    And are far more likely to stay together.
    Not even the SJW can stop that.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Latin America has had a perfectly stable race-based system for the past 500 or so years. If you look at Brazil, there is a lot of inter-marriage across the racial lines. However people with darker skin sink lower. People with a lighter skin rise higher. If a man with Black skin does well, he will marry White and in a couple of generations his children will look a bit cafe au lait.

    Not to mention the enormous efforts Blacks make to look White when they are successful. Look at Neymar. Born Black. Now pretty much White.

    Generations of urban living has not changed that. That is the system Britain is most likely to copy. We will have a large, mainly un-educatable, mostly Black underclass. A small mainly-White elite who run the place and fly to work in helicopters to avoid the favelas.

    You can have a lot of intermarriage and yet also a lot of discrimination based on skin colour.

  8. Closer to home we have Northern Ireland. There aren’t a huge number of cross-faith marriages, and often they seem to end up moving to England.

    That might just be selection bias based on the small sample I’ve met, but it does seem to be a thing.

  9. SMFS,
    Brazil is exceptional: it’s a melting pot with a single culture. There is high culture and low culture within that, but it does see itself as a single society. India (and Northern Ireland) have separate communities living side-by-side: the salad bowl analogy. It’s not just about skin colour or how society treats you: it’s about which society you belong to in the first place.

  10. Edward Lud,

    It’s also a thing about seeking different genes. It’s why we go gaga over French and Italian birds, and the French are into more Germanic types.

    And the best advice you can give a young person is to go and work abroad. Because Japanese or South American women are also doing the same thing.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    Andrew M – “Brazil is exceptional: it’s a melting pot with a single culture.”

    And Britain is not?

    “India (and Northern Ireland) have separate communities living side-by-side: the salad bowl analogy.”

    That is how Britain used to be too. Not any more. India will presumably go the same way – I agree with TW when he says the market and urbanisation will lead to a break down of caste. But that doesn’t mean that Britain and India will not remain colour conscious. As Brazil and the rest of Latin America has. As Haiti is, for crying out loud.

    That is ignoring the very real possibility that there is either a cultural or a genetic reason for Whites and Blacks never being equal. After all, the most prominent part-Black British person I can think of recently was Jade Goody. No signs that anyone of African-origin is going to take a leading role in British society so far.

    Except for Peter Ustinov I suppose. But his ancestor was from Ethiopia.

  12. After all, the most prominent part-Black British person I can think of recently was Jade Goody.

    Dozens of sportsmen. The current Manchester United team alone seems to have unearthed a rich seam of them.

  13. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Dozens of sportsmen. The current Manchester United team alone seems to have unearthed a rich seam of them.”

    Yeah. As in the US. That is the problem though isn’t it? The Jewish and Italian communities have gone through the athlete producing stage – both Britain and America used to have Jewish boxing champions. African origin communities are stuck there.

    It is not as if people have not tried for some other outcome. It is not as if we haven’t spent billions trying to accomplish it. It is not as if massive legal obstacles are standing in their way.

  14. Its the same in the West Indies – a friend of mine whose parents are from Jamaica spent some time a few years ago visiting family there, and there was one (absent) family member who everyone seemed to talking rather negatively about, and when pressed it came out it was because he was darker skinned than the other family members, and was thus considered to be ‘lower class’.

  15. Discounting cultures on their deathbed, has a light skinned culture ever been colonised by a darker one?

  16. What I noticed about French girls was that whilst being very pretty, immaculately dressed and good mannered, their legs, as a proportion of their body length, are very short.

  17. German birds tend to have BO, probably because they don’t shave their armpits or wash very often. French women have BO, but sexy BO.

    The German diet is so pork rich, I truly wonder why the RoP molesters don’t consider them not halal!

  18. “The German diet is so pork rich, I truly wonder why the RoP molesters don’t consider them not halal!”
    One hopes you’re discussing RoP men on German women, here, Wichie. As far as I know, rug munching isn’t in the RoPers playbook. So wouldn’t figure as haram in the dietary restrictions. Whether pork sword would be, would be far too much unnecessary information..

  19. Bloke in Costa Rica

    “After all, the most prominent part-Black British person I can think of recently was Jade Goody.”

    Thandie Newton, Naomi Campbell and Richard Ayoade ring a bell?

  20. John77

    All excellent points but what I meant was, colonised culturally, like the Brits did to the Indians, or the Romans did to us, so that the colonised people aspire to be like their rulers?

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