Old habits die hard.
The Chinese pursuit of fair skin is still going strong as evidenced by the robust sales of whitening creams here -- which are in fact harmful to the skin. The products contain acid which not only bleach your skin white, but also make the skin layer thinner and thus more susceptible to harmful UV rays.
But I'm going off topic here.
A recent survey commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong has discovered youngsters aged between three and six have more negative attitudes towards people with darker skin.
One hundred and fifty-two children were interviewed face-to-face by the department of child education and community services of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. They found after the children saw pictures of people with different skin colours, they gave significantly higher scores to white- and yellow-skinned people than those with darker skin.
As a result the government body is calling for better pre-school education and parenting.
Hmmm I wonder how that happened?
When children are babies they are praised for having fair skin and repeated enough times the belief is ingrained in them by the time they're three.
In talking about the results of the survey, which was the first of its kind in the city, commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong says prejudice among children may be escalating.
"We cannot underestimate the problem of discrimination at an early age. I hope the government can set up policies to start teaching the correct values at pre-school," he said.
Professor Wong Wan-chi of the department of educational psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong was surprised by the results. "Children usually do not have discriminatory attitudes at early age. As these attitudes do not exist by nature, it has more to do with their education," she said.
Wong said parents and teachers should be more sensitive and careful about their own behaviour. The media should be included here too.
But as I said earlier, cultural beliefs are still very strong and so it's going to take several generations for these preconceptions about skin colour to shake off completely.