What’s Popular

I took my kids to a pool to swim today, something I was never allowed to do growing up bc my parents were scared I would get “too dark.”

Whiteness chokes us so early.


Saira Rao is clearly a mentally ill person and I don’t want to make fun of her.

But here’s the thing. Where I lived as a child, everybody was extremely white. Everybody wanted to be darker. All I heard was, “go outside already! Look at your legs, they are the color of sour cream!” I still look at my legs every spring and make jokes about sour cream. And the most popular boys at school were the two black boys because they were the only black boys in the whole large city. If I looked like Saira, I’d be the most popular girl at school by far. Where I come from, thousands of people each year give themselves skin cancer trying to look like Saira.

What’s rare is in demand. What’s not rare isn’t. Yes, Saira Rao is unwell but there are many healthy people who don’t get this.

26 thoughts on “What’s Popular”

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, have started following Saira Rao, who clearly provides courageous, honest and intelligent analysis.


    1. May I gently suggest shifting your attention completely to her? Because you kind of scare me lately a bit. I wouldn’t mind losing the competition for your attention to Saira.


  2. “Saira Rao is unwell ”

    She’s a child of immigrants from a place (India) where people have been obsessed with “fair” skin for a long time. So the choking wasn’t coming from the culture she was living in but from her parents’ culture that they brought with them.
    A non-trivial amount of desi (for lack of a better word) anger at ‘whiteness’ seems to be redirecting anger they (should?) feel toward their parents toward the culture at large. Another big part seems to be seeing what works as middle brow intellectual branding (anger tinged with solipsistic self-pity) and jumping on the bandwagon.


    1. In many societies dark skin is associated with manual work and low status. In the West tanned skin became a sign of high status due to the association with beach holidays. The most famous case was Coco Chanel making suntanning fashionable in the 1920s.


  3. “What’s rare is in demand. What’s not rare isn’t.”

    Sometimes yes, but not always.

    Being Jewish was quite rare in my small town in Donbass, but it sure wasn’t ‘in demand.’

    Don’t know how this woman would’ve been treated at your unusual school, but it is better not to stand out in terms how one ethnically looks.

    It is more ‘in demand’ to look white in US and Slavic in Ukraine.

    ‘Legs like sour cream’and being tanned is not equivalent to being of different ethnicity.


  4. Among my Viet friends in Vietnam, it’s a class marker. If you’re light, it means you don’t labor outdoors. When I first arrived, and promptly got sunburned, the ladies told me to cover up (hat, gloves, sleeves, mask, like everyone else while outdoors) or I’d “turn black and never find a husband”. This is still a running joke around my house. Being out in the sun just brinks out my freckles 😉


  5. Uh, views of skin color and tanning vary from place to place and group to group? When I was growing up, a goal of going on vacation for white people was getting browner. Now most white people I know try to avoid it because of skin cancer. When our babysitter, an immigrant from Sri Lanka, was meeting her fiancee’s parents for the first time (also Sri Lankan immigrants), she actively worried that they would find her too brown for their son. These realities can coexist.


  6. Well, she is Indian. I was told that the marriage prospects decrease, the darker the skin shade of a woman in India. It her parent’s heads it was a legitimate concern.


  7. OT: What’s popular with BLM are domestic abusers who run at the police screaming and waving a knife….

    Because apparently one was shot and killed in Pennsylvania and now people are protesting instead maintaining a dignified silence. Oh and apparently he stabbed several people last year so stabbing people is also popular with BLM….


    1. // OT: What’s popular with BLM are domestic abusers who run at the police screaming and waving a knife….

      Rod has a post about it with a photo; the knife was huge.

      Mike expressed what I think re US racism in his last post:


      I also wish to clarify that racism does exist, but US blacks seem to me to be accepted as ‘real’ Americans in a way US Jews may not be even now and US Muslims probably aren’t. Obama was chosen by the American people in a way somebody named Abraham would not have been.


      1. “US blacks seem to me to be accepted as ‘real’ Americans in a way US Jews may not be even now and US Muslims probably aren’t”

        It depends on the Jews…. everyday assimilated non-religious or moderately religious Jews are absolutely accepted (and people mostly don’t know they’re Jewish unless they’re told). I knew a number of American Jews like that at the university. In each case I didn’t know they were Jewish until they mentioned it directly or indirectly.

        Orthodox Jews who don’t seem like they want to be American and engage in weird and off-putting behavior a lot less so. I remember some story a few years ago when a bunch of them moved to some town in upstate New York and the locals wanted to hold “let’s get to know each other” event and the Orthodox Jews wanted no part of it or the people already living there. I think of them sort of like less pleasant Amish – in the US but not of it.

        Muslims are too new and it’s unfortunate that muslim migration has coincided with the growth of backward looking and intolerant forms of Islam so it will take a long time for that to shake out.


        1. ‘Moderately religious’ Jews in Israel cannot eat non-kosher food as only one example, so with closer acquaintance being Jewish would come out. You seem to talk about ethnic Jews who are on the way out of Judaism and whose grandkids may attend churches.

          In addition to Orthodox Jews, Israel has a large population of National Religious Jews who belive in “an ideology that combines Zionism and Orthodox Judaism” and “revolves around three pillars: the Land of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.”


          1. “‘Moderately religious’ Jews in Israel cannot eat non-kosher food as only one example”

            By conviction or by law?

            “ethnic Jews who are on the way out of Judaism”

            I think they were more Jewish the way lots of people are Christian…. that’s what they say if you ask what religion they are and they might attend a religious service on special occasions but it’s not a major focus of life. In terms of food they won’t go out of their way to eat non-kosher but they won’t avoid it if it’s too difficult to.

            Food is absolutely a block to integration/assimilation for those of any traditional religious bent since lots of religions restrict people’s diets specifically (I think) to discourage mixing with outsiders. But it’s hard to assimilate in the US without mixing with outsiders which is considered part and parcel of the American experience along with reaching out and helping people from outside your group, that is not restricting charitable activities to the group and pitching in with others in times of need,


            1. // “‘Moderately religious’ Jews in Israel cannot eat non-kosher food as only one example”
              By conviction or by law?

              I do not understand the question. Torah explicitly forbids to eat non-kosher foods, so they cannot do it because of basic religious laws of Judaism.

              Of course, laws of the state of Israel do not forbid Jews to eat non-kosher.


      2. The only reason why Bernie won’t be president is that he mismanaged his campaign twice. It’s definitely not anti-Semitism. Jews are pretty much the dominant group in so many achievement areas in the US. In academia, finance, art, media, tech, it’s all Jews. Even in my department of foreign languages, the people who have achieved the rank of Full Professor (the highest rank) are 70% Jews.


  8. Clarissa, have you shared your confusion with your friend that you mentioned two weeks ago? I’m sure she can explain much better than any of the regular commenters here.


    1. I wish people understood how much I have going on and how impossible it is for me to know which friend and which confusion I mentioned two hours, let alone two weeks ago.


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