Skin Whitening, Racial Bias Get Listeners Blogging

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Host Michel Martin and digital media producer Lee Hill comb recent through listener feedback to the program. One listener blogs about how the popularity of skin whitening products has brought her nothing but pain in her quest for love — after one man said she isn't light enough. Also, a listener shares her personal story following an incident of alleged racial bias at a Philadelphia-area swim club.

MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

And now it's time for BackTalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me, as always. Hi, Lee. What's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, skin lightening. We recently reported how the international marketing of skin bleaching products and how millions of women and men around the world have gotten sold on the idea that light skin will make them happier, richer, and more desirable.

And Aisha(ph) who is of Pakistani and Indian descent, says she's felt the sting of color bias in a very personal way.

AISHA: To this day, many ignorant people who are educated make skin tone their priority when taking a bride for themselves. My mom informed me of a prospect from a very respected family. We talked over the phone and clicked right off before seeing each other. They wanted to know how light my skin was. Why is color more important when a girl is educated, have a stable and healthy profession? Her personality and character both are regarded high, then why all else seems so less important than skin tone? It hurts bad.

HILL: Michel, and Aisha also told us that this man and his family ended up rejecting her because she wasn't light enough.

MARTIN: Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that story, Aisha. Lee, on another story that touches on race that we've been covering: the dispute between the Valley Swim Club in a Philadelphia suburb and the Creative Steps Day Camp. Last month, as many people probably know by now, the mostly minority students from Creative Steps were disinvited from the club. Club officials cited safety concerns, but the children had reported hearing racially-charged comments directed at them when they were there.

The children were asked not to return after one visit and the day camp's money was refunded. Now, Creative Steps and the parents of the children are considering a lawsuit against the club. Our coverage prompted listeners to write us with their own stories.

Here's blogger Susan. She writes, "When living in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1984, a similar thing happened to my family and a friend. We had invited him to meet us at our swim club. When he never showed, we were surprised to meet him waiting at our house. The club would not allow him in because he is African-American. We quit that club and joined another. It felt strange to me to call clubs and ask for information about cost, facilities, and whether they allowed people of color, yet that is how we took action."

HILL: Thanks, Susan. And Michel, a few updates.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD")

HILL: We recently talked about how gay rights issues are playing out within the Episcopal Church. Well, on Tuesday, Episcopal leaders decided to lift what had been a moratorium on the ordination gay bishops, declaring gays and lesbians eligible for any ordained ministry. And a day later, they also decided to allow church blessings of same-sex unions.

Also, we reported this week on an interesting congressional race brewing out of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's former district in California. The two contestants to represent the largely Hispanic district were two women, both with the last name Chu, who were, in fact, related by marriage. Well, Democrat Judy Chu emerged as the winner, and has become the first person of Chinese heritage elected to Congress. And she's set to speak with us next week. So tune in.

MARTIN: We hope you will. Well, thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends to tell us more about what you think. You can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our Web page, go to npr.org. Click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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