I've had several Cambodians tell me (through translators of course) that they love looking at white skin. I get stared at everywhere I go pretty much.

In my experience, a lot of Asian cultures suffer from this sort of malady. You'd be amazed at the amount of whitening products advertised on T.V. They even have a brand of soap purported to "whiten skin."

There are also class-based complications in the mix. The poorest people work literally all day long, picking through trash, selling stuff on the streets or various other subsistence-based jobs. They are outside all the time and thus well-tanned. What's healthy and attractive in American culture is disdained as low and dirty in this culture.

One product that sells really well here is "My Boy" a liquified faux-milk substitute. The can is small, like an old can of green beans, on the front is a picture of a ten year old (or so) blond haired, blue eyed squeaky clean looking white boy. I.E. the precise kind of image Cambodians seem to love, and something you *never* see for real in Cambodia.

Even North East Asians: Japanese, Koreans, seem to prefer whiteness.

Sometimes I feel that American culture suffers similarly. Our obsession with tan-ness really isn't all too healthy considering the damaging effects of the sun. Often the lightest people, those whose skin tone would constantly be praised here, are the ones most diligent when it comes to tanning every season. Those are the people most at risk!

Other times I think the disease is even more insidious: What are the true risks of skin cancer? Perhaps the scientific community has obliged our self loathing to the point of adding legitimacy to the notion that white skin is inferior by saying that it is more susceptible to skin cancers and thus really pale people need to be extra careful when it comes to sunscreen. John McCain, Arizona's Senator and poster boy for skin cancer admitted to tanning vehemently throughout his life. Wouldn't his skin cancer have been avoided if he didn't brazenly stick his face in direct sunlight for hours on end? That is, without the self loathing that caused him to darken his natural skin tone, he would have avoided skin cancer.


I experienced some blatant racism today: a candidate for a teaching job came into our school requesting an interview. I was chatting with the Director of Studies in his office at the time when this became known. The Cambodian director of studies (the one who deals primarily with the Cambodian clientele) told the foreign (American) director that she was waiting and said, almost literally, not to hire her ("we're not interested in hiring her") even though she is American, and our school is called the American Academic Center--it's connection to America supposedly being its American Teachers. The expressly understood reason was because she's black. Of course Cambodians aren't really that far from being considered "black" as it were, they have the same nose and with enough sunlight, some pretty dark skin. Self hatred is the most potent kind.