Humber College hosted the screening of the documentary Shadeism by editor Nyani Thlyagarajah. Students had an opportunity to watch the film and have a question and answer session with Thlyagarajah. The documentary Shadeism features stories of discrimination between light-skinned and dark-skinned people in African American, South Asian, Aboriginal, etc. communities.
Thlyagarajah thinks anti-black racism is the root of shadeism. “Anti-black racism is really at the root of it,” Thlyagarajah said. She believes multiple colonizers such as the British, French and Portuguese throughout history have a part in shadeism. “It’s definitely multiple colonizers,” said Thlyagarajah. Early sign of colonialism and shadeism were in South Africa. “Some of the early bleaching crèmes ads were in south Africa, we see a lot of them are still available and we know the context and history of south Africa,” said Thlyagarajah.
She thinks shadeism still occurs in Canada as well. “This is something that we carry with us from other places, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it also exists here with indigenous communities,” said Thlyagarajah. She believes media is important to others’ understanding of shadeism. “Our media and what we are ingesting is crucial,” said Thlyagarajah. When it comes to children and younger people Thlyagarajah believes, along with being mindful of the media that they are exposed to, the conversation of shadeism has to be a team effort from the adults. “It has to be conscious, collective effort,” said Thlyagarajah.
Thlyagarajah, while having the conversation on shadeism, took her niece to movies such as The Princess and The Frog. She also believes suggesting different movies and books that encourage children to have an internal dialogue can also help. “I think that is a conversation that allows her to have an internal dialogue without forcing the conversation on her.” Thlyagarajah didn’t feel like she experienced shadism, but while creating the film she came to the conclusion that she experienced shadism while getting her face waxed. “I remember the feeling that I used to have when I would get my face waxed and there would a noticeable difference in shade even as somebody who was lighter skinned and that hit me,” said Thlyagarajah. The film gave Thlyagarajah the opportunity to reflect on herself and her body. “This particular film had me constantly reflecting on my relationship to myself and my body,” said Thlyagarajah. Thlyagarajah thinks the government, the media and other system structures have made it difficult to change in society. “I think the problem is that all of our systems and structures including the government, the media other structures are engulfed and devoted to divisive and oppressive politics” said Thlyagarajah.
The event was a collaboration between the Base (formally known as the Bridge), the Aboriginal Resource Centre and the Humber Gallery. The Base is an organization the supports students who identify as African American or Caribbean by offering services such as tutoring. Offering workshops that helps students learn life and career skills. The base also offers self-care events. “It is a collaboration with the Aboriginal resource centre, the Base as well as the Humber Gallery,” said Efe Chehore, the student advisor for the Base. “It depicts the experience of colourism and different communities,” said Chehore. Jessica Reign, Base student support advisor, would like to create more events like the screening to expose others to the arts and different perspectives. “We want to do more events like this to expose the arts and different perspectives,” said Reign.
The film Shadism will come out online. Thlyagarajah is working on a film called Displace. “It’s a drama set in Toronto and it’s a queer love story about a Tamil woman and half-Mohawk, half-Iranian woman,” said Thlyagarajah. The film explores their recreation with their fathers and touches on the conversation of racialized immigrants. Thlyagarajah is also working on a television show calledVisible Majority. “It’s about first-generation millennials of colours,” said Thlyagarajah. That television show will also be filmed in Toronto.