I bought toothpaste today
Here's the package:
Since I'm really white, as a friend who I'd previously only met online line remarked, IIRC -- suffice to say, I've never been asked "No, really, where are you from?" -- I probably shouldn't even begin to pick this apart. However, this super work of political satire may help to show the role white (or whiter) skin plays in Thai culture:
BANGKOK – Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) took a break from his relentless anti-government campaign yesterday to undergo a preventive medical procedure to re-whiten his skin.
Citing “the need to maintain the proper image at all times,” the PDRC made the decision on Thursday to get Suthep out of the sunlight and into a clinic where he could have his entire body coated in the finest skin-whitening creams and chemicals available in Thailand.
“It was a hard decision, with the election just a few days away,” said PDRC leader Chumpon Julasai, “but we decided that in the long run, it was better to take a day off of the campaign than to risk our movement’s image with an insufficiently white-skinned spokesman.”
Suthep, who has walked over 20 kilometers in the last 30 days as part of numerous PDRC marches throughout the city, reportedly accepted the recommendation of his colleagues “reluctantly.” According to reports, he only submitted when fellow PDRC leader Issara Somchai held up a mirror to Suthep’s face.
“Once he saw that he was as dark as an uneducated Isaan farmer, he realized that he was risking losing everything we’d fought for,” explained Issara. ...
Although the PDRC leadership insists that it represents all Thai people, its support base of wealthy urbanites, middle-class professionals, and traditionalist royalists is believed to be highly intolerant of direct sunlight and people with dark skin, as evidenced by the nearly complete absence of protesters from the protest sites in daylight hours, as well as the tendency among protesters to post Instagram selfies using the ultra-brightening “Amaro” and “Valencia” filters.
Additionally, protesters’ signage and Facebook comments referring to government supporters and pro-election Thais as “buffaloes” and “dirty-skinned rats” has created an unspoken expectation among the movement that its leaders uphold the proper aesthetic.
Sathit denied that either the whitening procedure or any of his comments constituted any kind of racism or bigotry.
“We are all Thais, so how can we be racist?” he asked. Addressing the reporter, he added: “You are a farang, so you cannot understand.”
Thailand doesn't have our horrific and ugly history of having bought, sold, worked, and bred black people as slaves, or protecting our one-time massive investment in "human capital" with racist ideological justifications (for which see Thomas Jefferson). I don't pretend to understand why white skin plays the role in Thailand that it does; you see women using parasols to avoid darkening their skin. It's very strange.