“I can’t breathe”, the last words of George Floyd Jr, killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer who knelt on his neck and back, were chanted last week by thousands of protestors on the streets of London, New York City and Washington DC, to highlight the prevalence of racism and violence against African-origin people through a movement which calls itself the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

While the movement has not found a major chapter in Pakistan or India, it has still found support here, with many of our celebrities voicing their enthusiasm for the cause. What is often missed in our conversations is that South Asia is not completely innocent when it comes to perpetuating and recycling racism. While it is easy to criticise, as we rightly should, the Western world for their appeasement of anti-black racism, we should not dismiss the racist undertones of our own society.

It can be said with certainty that our society favours lighter skin colours and stigmatises darker skin. There is little representation of dark-skinned people in our media, our films and our marketing industries. Fairness creams make up a billion-dollar business in South Asia, showing the extent to which fair skin is preferred over darker tones. Some feel content to say that this predisposition for fair skin is merely a preference and is harmless – but this is not true. Our promotion for lighter skin perpetuates the view that darker skin is inherently bad and something to be fearful of – a narrative that is extremely harmful for our own African descent population, the Makranis and Sheedis. It reinforces a phenomenon so pervasive that even privileged black people cannot escape from it – even West India’s cricket captain Darren Sammy was not excused from racist insults during his time in South Asia.

The BLM movement should cause us to introspect our own role in feeding into racist narratives. This does not mean shunning those who use fairness creams – rather it should invoke us to challenge the centuries-old ideologies which have internalised us to prioritise whiteness – and that will take time and concrete effort.