• Natasha Paramasamy

The lasting effects of colonization

Colonization is defined as the ‘action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area’. Often referred to as ‘the age of discovery’, many Western European countries ventured out and colonized America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The aim of colonizing these lands was not only to build an empire but also to shape indigenous people into a culture of the imperial country. Time has moved on, and most areas have been de-colonized but what about the lasting effects that still remain?

From colonialization, other issues began to arise such as supremacy and trauma. White supremacy is still an effect that remains prominent in today’s society and we still see it passed down to further generations. The idea that white people were superior became drilled into the minds of the colonizers and the indigenous people. Their country and culture were taken from them and riddled with westernised standards. Even after they became independent countries, they were left unprepared and vulnerable to the effects of colonisation. From this supremacist mindset, their society was corrupted by colourism and racism. This contributes to the cause of inter-generational trauma and insecurities amongst minority communities.

The western influence on these communities has affected many norms such as the education system to beauty standards. Through westernisation, which is a direct impact of colonisation, the concept of beauty is very euro-centric. Light skin and fairness is an ideal that originates from colourism and the isolation of minorities but is still very prominent today. This can be even be seen through media, for example, the promotion of ‘whitening’ creams. These creams capitalise on western beauty standards by encouraging people to lighten their skin to become more attractive. Another case is south Asian films using a white actress and giving her brown eye contacts and a tan to make her seem south Asian instead of hiring an actual south Asian actress.

These western standards also impact POC (people of colour) in the workplace, as features that are not euro-centric are often discriminated against. Certain body types and hairstyles are deemed ‘unprofessional’ and these contribute to discrimination in hiring processes. Hairstyles and other features have no correlation to merits or work practices- which is why colonisation has such an effect on our generation. Colonisation also resonates in cultural appropriation, which we also see in beauty standards. When POC wear their traditional clothing and hair, it is condemned and is judged by society. However, when white people wear other cultures clothing and wear their hair in other ways, it is seen in a different light. It is seen as ‘trendy’ and ‘revolutionary’.

It is important to realise the difference between appropriation and appreciation. We must acknowledge the effects of colonisation and through this, we can help the minority communities that still feel the effects. We should do all we can to create a society that allows POC to be comfortable expressing their culture and traditions.

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