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  • Elizabeth Cochran

Thailand lets talk about race

Thailand has a few things that I need to discuss in light of the recency of BLM Black Lives Matter events.

There is a thing that Thai people are very familiar with and that is the preference for whiter appearing skin. They obtain this through whitening creams, whitening lotions, whitening face wash; women, men, and ladyboys use makeup tactics to appear more white or more accurately appear as Westernized. I have pondered to myself why is this? Why do they prefer a whiter appearance when their skin is beautifully tanned?

Western Influences

The only simple justification I can find for this preference for appearing white is the influence that the West has on the rest of the world. I mean look at how widespread the English language has become. This influence has come from various European countries and the United States of America. Due to these changes in culture without actively knowing what impact this would have we Americans and English have spread our culture around the globe. This concept of course has an official term; that is referred to as Americanization. In modern times we weren't pushing our culture onto others necessarily, but when you look into history we were, hence colonization. Our ancestors were the influence of this and now we have issues of ignorance and in my times of travel I see that other countries are all wrapped in on European or American pop culture. This is popularized in their media, fashion, and beauty industry.


Americanization is the influence American culture and business has on other countries outside the United States, including their media, cuisine, business practices, popular culture, technology or political techniques.

For example, in your family dynamic there are your parents, you, and your siblings. Most likely when you grew up you heard this from your parents "you need to set a good example for your younger sibling". The youngest in the family looks to their parents and their siblings on everything it is that they know about the world. A baby observes and learns the language spoken, how to eat, how to talk, how to walk; they learn by what they see to shape who they will become. A parent notices later in their parenting that their child has picked up on their behaviors, whether they are good or bad; they come to the realization they are raising a mini-me. Maybe the parent always curses and then one day their little baby say the curse word, shock! Where did the baby learn it from? The baby learned it from what they observed and what they were taught. This is the family dynamic of actions and passing on your culture, values, and behaviors in one's upbringing.

Now, larger scale you could maybe view it like the parent countries are the power countries of the world (because they are). The two power countries I am talking about would be the United States and the United Kingdom.

Why is this a problem?

I observed this obsession with skin whitening and had to learn Thai people's motives. It became very clear their reasoning. The various responses I got were "white is beautiful" , "I want skin like an American", "if you want to be successful, you need white skin". This is the reality and I have seen in films, commercial advertisements, and everywhere in the mainstream media here. This is sad to see and the fact they don’t believe their skin color is beautiful the way it is already says a lot. It is normalized and marketed for them to have white skin and the health issues and mental health problems that revolve around skin whitening is disheartening. The skin whitening problem is just one small part of the problem with racism in Thailand.

If you wish to watch some advertisements about skin whitening and racism, I linked some here.

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