White days, white nights in white satin with white lace – Freddie Kissoon

White days, white nights in white satin with white lace – (“whiteness in advertisements”)

APRIL 8, 2012 | FREDDIE KISSOON  –  Commentary

I spoke to this young lady who does designing with a certain newspaper. I asked her not to misinterpret my curiosity as an intrusion into her work, because I have no such authority. My interest was the relentless light-complexioned bodies that appear in her advertisements.

She said that she goes onto Google Images and pulls down the faces. I then questioned why no dark-skinned visage. I stumped her. She couldn’t answer.
Months later, the situation remained unchanged. I went to the owner of a certain commercial enterprise to inquire if the faces on their advertisements are sent to the newspaper. She wasn’t in the country, but the manager said that the store does not design the page. At the time of writing, the same old story goes on.

What you are about to read here is the product of research. The reader has the choice of testing what is contained in this article. If I am contradicted, then I will discontinue this column. Here is my challenge if you are going to take me on. I am contending that over ninety (yes, as large as ninety) percent of the faces that appear in all advertisements in the four daily newspapers (KN, SN, Chronicle and Guyana Times) and all (yes, all) local ads on television are of light complexion.

And when I mean light complexion I am not referring even to sapodilla brown, but light skin in the vicinity of whiteness, though not white as in Caucasian colour or very light colour which in common parlance we call red-skinned. As to dark hue (like me, Uncle Adam, Uncle Dale Andrews and people like us), that is less than one percent.

Now here is the challenge. You have to prove that it is less than ninety percent. I have opened up myself to vulnerability by going as high as ninety percent, but I will stick with that number, because this column is the product of observation that went on for more than two years. I spoke with that young lady referred to above more than a year ago.

If you are going to win me, you have to prove that less than ninety percent of the faces featured in the advertisements in Guyana are light-complexioned. Let me take the liberty of indulging in a little bit of chauvinism and say that I cannot lose.
We have gone back full circle to the fifties and sixties in Guyana, where most employees in the private sector were people who were light in skin colour and the advertisements featured people with that kind of hue. In this respect, the PNC Government, the PPP Government, Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan have failed.

As I type this, I have in my hand the book, “Nostalgias: Golden Memories of Guyana, 1940 -1980” by Godfrey Chin. On page 47 is the hockey team in 1961. Not one player is even brown skinned.
On page 81 is Radio Demerara’s Christmas party. No one is even of brown complexion. On page 128 is a celebration of a prize-giving ceremony in 1961 at Banks DIH. Everyone in that picture is European, Portuguese or Mulatto. On page 239, the Christmas party at Royal Bank of Canada is featured. All in the frame are European, Portuguese or Mulatto. Chin has a page that looks at men’s fashion in the late sixties; the male models were all European or Portuguese. There was one Mulatto.

The beauty queens from the fifties onwards were Portuguese or clear-complexioned Indians. This pattern was broken when the American Black Power movement swept the Caribbean, which coincided with republican status in Guyana. The PNC Government under President Burnham was overtly in favour of attacking the ubiquity of the light-complexion infamy. This emphasis on post-colonial aesthetic/cultural recovery remains one of Forbes Burnham’s great contributions to Independent Guyana.

One of the main vehicles for the clear complexion thing in this country is the Hindu film industry, commonly known in Guyana as Bollywood. It is truly shocking that in a country with one billion people, a majority of which are certainly not of light hue, there isn’t a leading actor of both genders that is even brown-skinned. The Hindu film industry is totally shameless when it comes to this.

It remains a mystery why human rights groups in India haven’t attacked this cultural and philosophical depravity. On the issue of private sector employment, the old aesthetic, cultural bias has crept back in. The lighter you are, the greater your chance of getting that job. Life in Guyana is indeed a tragedy.

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  • Chandra Singh  On 04/09/2012 at 5:00 am

    Sir, what is this obsession you have with colour in Guyana. Have you ever looked at newspapers and Ad publications in the US and African countries? Or even TV shows in these locations? How about in the Indian subcontinent? You are just stoking the fire. You seem to hate who you are!

  • compton de castro  On 04/09/2012 at 9:18 am

    My dear sir
    May I humbly request that we move forward AND REFRAIN FROM LOOKING BACKWARDS….
    As a Guyanese born and bred I find your article of “poor taste” almost “racist” but please understand where I am coming from…. racism exists in both white and people of colour.

    Today if the race questions pops up my response is usually “I am a man of colour” or sometimes I feed my ego and say “I am a colourful person”….even sometimes saying rudely I am a “putagee” !
    The colour of ones skin is something we can do nothing about but the colour of our hearts and minds …we can “express” even “exhibit” by our words and our action.
    Please do not remove or exclude me from your circulation.
    Sir your comments are downright racially motivated. Maybe you are hoping to be “controversial” to encourage /promote your readership…but please sir play do not let “race” or “colour” be your issue…and please refrain from abusing your privilege.
    Sincerely Compton de Castro in UK

    • guyaneseonline  On 04/09/2012 at 12:40 pm

      Hello Compton:
      This article is written by Frederick Kissoon who writes for Kaieteur News, in Guyana. It is NOT a Guyanese Online editorial.
      I hope that your references do not refer to me or to Guyanese Online, as I have not commented on this matter. We include articles from a wide spectrum of subjects and viewpoints, and this is just one of them.
      We do not exclude persons form our mailing lists because of their views- for or against the articles on this Blog.
      Thanks for your input!
      Kindest regards
      Cyril Bryan

      • compton de castro  On 04/09/2012 at 7:54 pm


        the comments below by Wycliffe Thomas “says it all” !

        I strongly recommend Comrade Kissoon see a specialist as the man needs
        “help” …professional help. I will make an effort to meet the gentleman for a “one to one” or even exchange e mails with him if he so wishes…
        I respect everyones opinions even if I disagree with them….but it is not my
        style to remain silent…I will share my opinions with all.
        As a matter of fact I learn more from people who disagree with me…
        in polite terms people who “beg to differ” !

        please observe the protocol and introduce me to Mr Kissoon via cyber space…obviously with his prior consent.
        I thank you for your explanation,
        compton de castro
        e mail doncomdecastro@yahoo.co.uk

  • Wycliffe Thomas  On 04/09/2012 at 6:12 pm

    Your articles should not include Freddie Kissoon’s in your paper. It is sad to say, but something is mentally wrong with that Guy. Many of his articles are based on what he hears and not what he knows. So, in future, please give us a break with the nonsense he writes.
    Best wishes for a happy Easter.

    • compton de castro  On 04/09/2012 at 8:02 pm

      dear wycliffe thomas
      thanks for your comment re Freddie Kissoons opinion even if you disagree
      with the gentleman….we must all listen/read even when we disagree as it is
      the “freedom of expression” “freedom of speech” that sometimes divide
      us…but we are all entitled to our opinions regardless…
      this is a “semi public” forum and yes a certain amount of “restraint” is sometimes neccessary by editors/publishers. But censorship certainly not.
      thank you for your opinion also.
      compton de castro

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