the color black

So….Obama’s inauguration. As a rule I don’t follow American politics because I don’t like to feed America’s already outrageous self-important notion that the rest of the world should be fascinated by every step of their political process.

At my Thai school, which is American-owned, they even tried to make us vote in a mock American election and if you answered a big questionaire about Obama and that other guy’s position on various issues, they gave you a free keychain. My “I’m not an American citizen, why in the world should I give a shit about [that other guy’s] stance on inheritance tax?” speech was kind of lost on the poor Thai library clerk. Didn’t I want a *free keychain*?, she seemed to think.

But here in Thailand people are interested in Obama’s inauguration. I was talking to my friend from Burma tonight, and he was listening to the inauguration on the radio is his little wooden shack. While he was also baffled at my complete lack of interest in the inauguration, I told him it was cool that it was the first time a man with black skin (my Thai isn’t good enough to say “black man”, so I said “a guy with black skin”) was president of the US. My friend exclaimed happily at this — his own skin is quite dark, his nickname is “Dam” — which means Black — and he felt happy that a dark-skinned man could be president. “There are many dark skinned people in the world”, he said.

It’s probably not obvious to North Americans and Europeans who love to tan, but in most of Asia, the whiter you are, the better. Skin whitening creams is big business here, and how white you are affects who you can date, and even what kind of job you can get. We’re not even talking being of African vs. European here — just what particular shade of Thai skin you have. Dark-skinned people are often discriminated against.

So it was cool to see that Obama’s inauguration was not just an inspiration to Americans or African Americans, but also other dark-skinned people like my friend, all over the world.

2 Responses to “the color black”


  1. 1 Natta January 20, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Well, it’s pretty strightforward.

    ฺBlack man = Kon Dam

    You know Kon as the meaning of a person, right? I think it’s translated words from words from English except you have to put adjectives behind noun as a general rule for Thai.

    Gosh, I sound like a grammar teacher lol.

    P.S. I used to tell my American friends that we do have lots of whitening products to make your skin whiter in Thailand. I did try to explain, but I could tell from their expression that they thought Thai people are freaks lol.

  2. 2 julielavoie January 20, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Cool, thanks for the help! I am afraid my Thai is not so good, but hopefully improving.

    I think for foreigners the whole white thing is just strange because we are always trying to tan, and if someone is tan they are more beautiful. We have tanning booths so you can tan in the winter, and fake tan products in case there is no sun. So we should just switch skin with Thai people and everyone would be happy. 😛


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