Illustration: Tana Osaski
Countless students went to places where the sun shines bright and hot, and came back sporting bronzed skin.
Skin darkening when exposed to UV rays is natural, but tanning is about more than just warm weather and clear skies. Socially, tanning can become way to compare class, or racial privilege.
In media and advertisements there are multiple celebrities and public figures that students look up to that have naturally fair skin, but go to the extremes to tan it. Some big names are Kim Kardashian or Ariana Grande. Both started out white and light skinned, but have visibly made their skin darker. When white influencers and people in general can confidently flaunt their tan they obtained through lotions, beds, or expensive beach vacations, it feels unfair and ignorant to the reality of those whose skin is naturally darker. It has to be known that no matter how tan they are, they will never actually be shamed, deemed unemployable, or excluded from social spaces like people of color with naturally darker skin have been for so many years.
In this country and generation, having darker skin is seen as beautiful. But at the same time, people with darker skin are constantly encouraged to lighten up their skin tone. They are advised to stay out of the sun, wear lighter makeup, or use creams to bleach their skin.
What does all of this say about our society? It mean that the white community strives for a skin tone that signifies elite class and racial ambiguity, while communities of color feel pressured to look lighter, or mixed.
White students that tan should consider the methods they use to achieve bronzed skin, and reflect upon why they find a darker skin tone so desirable. Again, there’s a big difference with tanning naturally in the sun, and intentionally trying to look darker than you are. People should take into consideration the privilege in being able to travel and bring back a tan as a souvenir, as well as the privilege in getting darker without worrying about the discrimination and negative reactions based on skin color.