Blackface and Racism in Thailand


During my time in Thailand so far, it’s been impossible to ignore the presence of racism. Dark skin is often seen as undesirable here and the market for skin-whitening products is booming as Thais long for lighter, ‘more beautiful’ skin. Blackface is frequently used here and the shocked reaction from Westerners usually goes over the heads of many Thais. This idea is also affected by the presence of nationalism and xenophobia, which causes some locals to look down on outsiders. This is illustrated by the abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia. However, racism in Thailand often shows up differently than you might see in other parts of the world. 

Racist Products

Let’s start with ‘Black Man’ cleaning products. Yes, this is a real thing. In Thailand, you can buy ‘Black Man’ mops, brooms and brushes, all carrying a little logo showing a smiling black guy in a suit, at your service. The company’s official website shows that the name has been altered to ‘Be Man’ and the chap in the logo is now white instead of his previous shade of grey.  However, ‘Black Man’ products are still available through retailers, so this must have been a very recent change.


There’s also Darkie toothpaste, which went through a similar process and was changed to Darlie after Colgate bought into the brand in 1990. This doesn’t seem so bad until you realise that ‘darlie‘ translates to ‘black person‘ in Chinese (黑人).  The brand continues to be very popular in Asia. The picture below shows how the brand name and logo were altered, only after foreign influence condemned the original.


Racist Ad Campaigns

As well as overtly racist products, there are also racist advertising campaigns from otherwise seemingly reasonable companies. Below is a video compilation of some of the most horrendous ones, including one from Cintra, offering a scholarship to girls with the most ‘radiant’ white skin.

It doesn’t end there. In 2013, Dunkin Donuts was forced to apologise after putting out an advertisement showing a model in blackface to promote their ‘charcoal donuts’.


In an interview with Saksith Saiyasombut from Asian Correspondent, Kaewmala of Thai Woman Talks provided some insight into this incident and how it fits into Thailand’s ideas of skin tone and beauty.

“The ad poster unfortunately comes out looking like a Thai version of the offensive American blackface. Intended or not, it’s like an American pointing a foot at a Thai person, say, in Los Angeles.”

Even if some of these advertisements like these are just stupid and insensitive rather than intentionally racist, they do help to perpetuate the already common idea that dark skin is less attractive and among all the other instances of racism and uses of blackface, it doesn’t bode well. Kaewmala continues:

There has long been a decided preference; an obsession bordering on pathological of “white skin” in Thai culture, as I explained [in an article on Thailand’s skin whitening craze]. At the most simplistic level, white equates good and beautiful and black the opposite. This remains deeply ingrained in the Thai psyche”

It seems that there’s a new blackface advertisement campaign every year in Thailand. In the latest, Seoul Secret released an advert for a whitening pill called Snowz featuring an actress who talks about how her white skin was the key to her success. She said that if she stopped ‘taking care‘ of herself and whitening her skin, other newer and lighter actresses would outshine her. It then showed her next to one of those girls, while she was painted completely black, looking on forlornly. The ad’s slogan translates to ‘white makes you win‘ or ‘whiteness is winning‘.

Shortly after the ad was released, the Youtube comments section was disabled, then later that day, the video was removed and Seoul Secret issued an apology.


One of my co-workers, another British teacher, once attempted to run a debate class about the Seoul Secret advertisement blackface controversy, and it didn’t work at all. His students completely missed the point and argued that of course companies should use white actresses to sell their products – because white is beautiful. The idea that black could also be beautiful or that ‘white is winning‘ was a harmful idea to promote wasn’t even on their radar.

While it saddens and angers me to see these kinds of advertisements, as someone who’s been living in Thailand for a few years, it doesn’t surprise me. The Seoul Secret brand name is an example of the popularity of Korean beauty standards in Thailand. Fairer complexions are widely regarded as more beautiful and there is a huge market for whitening products for Thais who want to emulate them. It’s hard to navigate this idea while living here. Some have argued that it’s not racism, but purely a beauty trend. However, it’s hard to argue that perpetuating the idea that one skin tone is inferior to another is anything other than racist.

My experiences as a teacher in Thailand have given me further insight into the perception of skin tone here as I’ve had countless conversations with my students on the subject. Some of these conversations have been positive, but the overwhelming majority of them have not. To show some examples, here are some excerpts of my posts on a thread on the Muay Thai Roundtable Forum called ‘The Lure of White Skin – Racism in Thailand‘, where much discussion on this topic has taken place.

“One student had been on vacation in LA, and I asked her if she enjoyed it. We got onto the topic of transport, and I mentioned that I’d assumed you would have to get around by car. She remarked ‘yes, public transport is very dangerous, a lot of black people get on‘.

An older lady had lived in Chicago for a few years. She said ‘I’m afraid of black people. They’re so big‘.

When I was discussing the idea of going to India with a student: ‘No, I don’t want to go. There are a lot of murderers and criminals‘. When I asked her why she thought that, she simply said ‘they have black skin‘.

Another student who’d just come back from a holiday in Bali said she had a lovely time there, ‘but I don’t like black people‘.”

“Yesterday, I was teaching a class about appearances and gave them pictures of different celebrities and asked them to tell me what they looked like. One of those pictures was of Wyclef Jean, which led one student to ask me “can I call him ‘negro‘?” When I responded with “absolutely not”, they were puzzled. They genuinely didn’t seem to know that it was an inappropriate or offensive term and thankfully, were very open to hearing my explanation, so I took time out of the class to make it very clear what words were OK and not OK for them to use and why, which is obviously not something I do when I have a student who makes an intentionally racist remark out of hate. I’m glad we were able to have that conversation.

Today, I had a one-on-one class with a university student who has a very high level of English […] She said “as Thai people, we believe that we don’t have racism, but we do, that’s why most people want to be white and think that dark skin is ugly” and talked about how every advertisement shows light-skinned actors and models. It was very refreshing to hear that kind of response. Most of my students would be completely unaware or ignorant about it. I told her about what had happened in my lesson the previous day and she laughed and said that she’d had a similar experience with her friends, and had told all of them not to say certain words. She’s an awesome student.”



Written by one of my students in a lesson on describing people


The ‘pigmentocracy’ and idea that black is ugly and white is beautiful seems to stem from the notion that darker skin represents a life of manual labour in the sun and therefore a lower social class with a lack of money and education, and white skin being seen as ‘hi-so’ and a sign of privilege. This is how many people’s opinions of black people take the leap from them being less beautiful to being inferior and even criminals. I often teach classes about crime in which my students have to report a theft to a police officer, and almost every single one of them has described a male with ‘black skin‘ as the thief. See this photo I took of an advertisement on the Skytrain as an example.


I’ve seen a lot of self-hate amongst my students for their skin colour, many of them lamenting their darker complexions and telling me that they wish they had my skin colour, which always makes me sad. Some of them have been completely baffled after seeing me with a tan. They can’t imagine why I would allow my ‘beautiful‘ skin to get any darker. While I’m out running in the sun, I’ll often pass women on their lunch breaks walking with parasols, who must think I’m rather strange. Here’s another story of mine that I posted on the Muay Thai Roundtable forum:

“I was teaching a fairly low-level class with a doctors and patients theme, teaching them how to discuss symptoms and give advice. Towards the end, I overheard one ‘patient’ tell the ‘doctor’ that his problem was his ‘black skin’. He was a little dark, but not that much (not that any shade would have made that comment OK). The doctor student responded with ‘it’s OK, you die and in the next life –‘  I cut him off before he finished his sentence, but it seemed like he was about to insinuate that he would come back as light-skinned in the next life as some kind of reward for being dark-skinned in this one! He then advised him to go and live in Korea, ‘because there is snow and everybody is white’ (Korean beauty standards are a big thing here). Instead of dealing with that student directly, I turned to the patient student and said ‘actually, you should go to my country, because a lot of people there love your skin colour and think it’s beautiful’.”

One of the most memorable instances of racism in Thailand that I’ve personally seen took place at a staff convention for a school I was working for, in which teams from each branch were required to put on a show. One group chose to perform a short play in which a man in blackface whose outfit consisted of head-to-toe black body paint, an afro wig, a pair of red shorts and a tribal necklace, was the main character. He was a buffoonish poor man with no English skills who wanted to learn English in order to marry a beautiful princess. The story involved him going through a door representing his education and coming out of the other side as a white man with nice clothes and the ability to speak English. Of course, he then went on to marry the princess. At that time, we had one black member of staff in the whole company, an American woman who was the first black teacher to be employed there. She ran out of the venue in tears before it finished and ultimately quit her job. When she did so, she sent out a company-wide email talking about the numerous cases of racism she’d experienced during her time there, which was later deleted by management. Some Thai staff defended the show, stating that it was a traditional tale with no intention of causing offence.

Another ‘traditional tale’ is Khao Nawk Na ข้าวนอกนา’, the story of a young Thai girl who was born to a mother from Isaan and a black father who met her mother during the Vietnam war. ‘Khao nawk na’ is a derogative term for mixed race people, literally translating to ‘rice outside the paddy’. The character carrying this name is played by a Thai actress in blackface and is referred to only as ‘E-Dam’ (a derogatory term roughly translating to ‘black one’) throughout the tale. She’s a complete outsider, bullied and rejected by both her family and her peers until she eventually finds love with a white foreign man. No Thai man could find her attractive, it seems.


Below, you can see a recent Thai soap opera adaptation of the story, in which the main actress also has a half-sister, Duuan, who was born to a white father. Their lives are in complete contrast as Duuan is adopted by a loving, wealthy couple and ‘E-Dam’ is sold off to a cruel family who beat her and treat her as a slave. When the two sisters meet by chance as adults, Duuan denies ever having any siblings and rejects her sister again. ‘E-Dam’ later gets her happy ending when she becomes a singer and falls in love with her English teacher. I’ve put all the episodes into a Youtube playlist.

Skin Whitening Products

When shopping for toiletries and cosmetics here, it’s hard to avoid advertisements for whitening products like ‘Snail White‘ and sheep placenta cream. Many general toiletries contain whitening agents, too. It can be challenging to find lotion, shower gel and deodorant that isn’t doesn’t contain some kind of whitening agent. There are even whitening soaps and creams specifically to make nipples and vulvas less dark. Both men and women are constantly surrounded by the idea that they need to be white to be attractive, and most TV shows and advertisements feature light-skinned actors and models like Nadet or Chompu.

My ex-boyfriend struggled a lot as an African American man living in Thailand, and often said that he generally felt unwelcome. He was once stopped by police and forced to go back to the gym and produce his passport while out running, although the same officers gave me encouragement when I later ran past them myself. People often stare at him, and one woman moved seats when he sat next to her on the train. Another sat opposite him and blatantly took a photo of him without looking up from her phone to make eye contact. He’s recently had to address Thai people’s use of the N-word at his gym. It should be noted that he goes to a very modernized, ‘hi-so’ gym run by young, wealthy Thais. The manager’s wife told him ‘I don’t speak n***a‘ when she didn’t understand the slang he was using. Her husband later asked him not to be angry with her and explained that he and all his Thai friends used the word to address each other because they listen to lots of gangster rap and think it’s ‘cool‘. He said that he thought it was okay because ‘there aren’t any black people around when we say it‘. Eventually, he agreed that he would tell them not to use it when he’s around. My ex explained to me that he wasn’t personally offended by this because they really just don’t understand it. He said ‘there’s nothing behind it when they use the word, it’s just something they say because they’ve picked it up from music‘. What’s also strange is that when they speak to him, they suddenly adopt the slang and mannerisms that they see in hip-hop, overacting in an almost cartoonish way. It’s unclear whether they’re doing it for his benefit or for their own, but either way, it’s uncomfortable. For some black perspectives on racism in Thailand, read ‘Racism in Thailand’ by FarangDam and Chiang Mai City Life’s article, ‘Being Black in Thailand’.

The kind of ignorance I’ve talked about here can also be seen in the popularity of Nazi imagery in Thailand as well as other parts of Asia, which has been dubbed ‘Nazi Chic’. It’s horrific to those who know the history of such imagery, but edgy and cool to some of those who don’t. There was a huge controversy in 2011, when a group of students put on a school parade dressed in full Nazi regalia, apparently unaware of how offensive their actions were. The Thai education system leaves a lot to be desired in any case, and most schools certainly don’t have the Holocaust on their curriculum.

Can we put the day-to-day racism and inappropriate advertising campaigns down to the same lack of exposure to history? Not entirely. I can excuse the use of the word ‘negro‘ by a person who simply thinks it’s the same as ‘African American‘ and means no offence, but there’s no excuse for anyone to simply state ‘I don’t like black people‘, or for Thai schools to turn away black teachers because they think they’ll ‘scare the children’. While Thailand doesn’t have the same history of racism and slavery that the West does, blackface still means the same thing over here as it does anywhere else. There is still the concept that one skin tone is inferior to another, and that is unacceptable.

Edit: A photo of a Thai woman wearing a t-shirt featuring the N-word has been removed at the subject’s request.

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80 thoughts on “Blackface and Racism in Thailand

  1. Brilliantly written Emma. I had no idea the racism in Thailand was so overt. It’s absolutely gob-smacking! I’ve heard about it in other parts of the world, but thought the Thais, being Buddhist, would not embrace such judgemental idiocy. It’s really worrying that advertisers reinforce and promote this disgusting mentality to sell products. Well done, good piece.


  2. I saw the “Black Man” cleaning products for the first time a couple months ago and just stood there with my mouth open for a minute. Another western fellow in the same aisle at the store saw my response and we basically just nodded at each other in mutual shock. But then, we had a big issue with Aunt Jamima (maple syrup) and Uncle Ben’s Rice (quick cooking rice) not too long ago, so it’s not like the west is “post-racism” itself.
    I heard on a padcast on the history of Flappers that it was this movement that really changed the dark skin = working outside and light skin = inside all day of affluence, as well as the thin body (which was “poor”) becoming preferable to the plumpness that signified affluence in the hundreds of years prior. Flappers turned this on its head, so that now we think of the tanned, lean body as one of affluence and “leisure,” where you have time to sun yourself on the yacht or take vacations to exotic places. The thin body can be taken up a notch in affluence by having food sensitivities. This hasn’t hit Thailand yet, as far as I’ve seen (I don’t know any hi-so people, so I’m by no means a knowledgeable source on that) but it seems to me that because agriculture and working outdoors is still such a huge part of Thai reality and ongoing prejudice against class, perceptions of nationality and “race”, and regional identity, the whole tan-as-leisure thing is not on the horizon for Thailand. And, of course, there are strict limits to the acceptance of “tan” skin versus actually, naturally pigmented skin in most of the west. I reckon part of the shock in a westerner’s experience of racism in Thailand is how upfront it is.


    • I was born poor and desperately crying for helps and Budda didn’t hear me until God found me and saved me and gave me a life. Your story is an authentic one which I was encountering when I was in Thailand. I went back to Thailand visiting and nothings has changed, I felt sad. I wish someday things will be better. I have wonderful life in America which I love as I never born in Thailand
      I am trying to catch up things of which that I didn’t have opportunities to get them was in Thailand.


    • Most Thais are taught at a very young age to hate everyone who isn’t Thai.
      Most Thais have 0 foreign friends because they don’t want criticism from family ,friends and other Thais.
      They want to learn English, not to have friends, but for a better job.
      They want your tourist dollars and then they want you to leave.


  3. Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to get into Gulliver’s on Kao Sarn with a black friend and they said I could get in for free and he had to pay? When I asked why they unashamedly said “because he’s black”. Didn’t even try to beat around the bush about it!


  4. Interesting article, Emma! Thank you for sharing your investigation with us.

    As a Thai, I would like to share my perception toward this kind of “discrimination” which I am not sure that it is similar to the definition of “racism” in English. (Obviously, my first language is not English, so I have to apologise for my broken English.) I have discussed this issue with my fellow friends who are studying Sociology, and we agree that it is also important to look outside the frame of Western racism.

    The reason why I don’t like using “racism” to describe preference for fair skin of Thai people, because it is not all or purely about race. As you notice, darker skin represents rurality and lower class, while the beauty ideal is, unfortunately, linked to physical appearances of higher class and elite people. Since they have never worked in the field and always stay indoor, their skin is fairer. It does not matter you are Sino-Thai, native Thai or muslim Thai, if you have fairer skin you will succeed. The concept about “race” in Thailand is quite blur, and they are mostly ranked according to their social class which is mostly assumed from image or appearance.

    This kind of discrimination becomes more complicated when Thailand receives foreign culture. Thai people generally understand internationality as a symbol of higher class. Ability to speak English or relationship with foreigners (especially from developed countries) make you look superior. People will understand you as a person who has a lot of money to learn English and will be able to fly to other countries. You are not poor, have low education or have a below average family background. This kind of romanticism makes Thai people want to look like other Asian nationalities, such as Japanese or Korean. I think you might have heard that “You look so Korean” can be understood as a compliment here. But, it does not mean that Thai people really want to become Koreans, they just want to look like or to possess any symbolisms that are linked to “(superior) foreign” only because they want to be “superior”. Thai people rarely want to be Westerners. It is a goal that is harder to achieve. So, some only choose to have Farang partners instead. And this is not because they want to be Western, but because Farang is generally understood as a symbol of “opportunity” and “financial gain”. To have a Farang partner is an ability to improve one’s class.

    I am so sorry about how your boyfriend is treated here. And you are correct — Thai people generally have no idea about history of other countries – Holocaust or Black Slavery. We mostly know Black people from pop culture media, and that’s not a good representation of African-American or Black people of other countries. Fear of darker skin is quite deep-rooted. I remember reading about Thai traditional literatures that present dark skinned people as funny or frightening, but these were not based on African, but Javanese or other Melanesian. And I think since WWII American concept toward Black skin has been added to Thai traditional perception toward darker skinned people. This fear has been nurtured because Thai media usually shows that people from Africa or Middle East have committed crime here. Along with the lack of understanding toward them, it is difficult to eliminate this kind of prejudice. So, in this case, I think “racism” is combined with ignorance and Xenophobia toward certain nationalities.


    • “I have discussed this issue with my fellow friends who are studying Sociology, and we agree that it is also important to look outside the frame of Western racism”.

      “The reason why I don’t like using “racism” to describe preference for fair skin of Thai people, because it is not all or purely about race. As you notice, darker skin represents rurality and lower class, while the beauty ideal is, unfortunately, linked to physical appearances of higher class and elite people.”

      Sorry to burst you and your friends bubble here, but you are actually emphatically wrong (as a person who has a degree in Anthropology and has lived in both western countries and Thailand). First off this has nothing to do with Western and Eastern Mentality. Your argument is founded on this concept of skin colour being linked to rural versus higher class (otherwise referred to as those who work in the fields versus those who work indoors). I’ve also seen this in action in exactly the same words in the Dominican Republic, which is about as western as you can get, and also referenced in many other western countries in exactly the same wrapping.

      Call it what you like it it’s still racism even if it’s not directly defined it as such. What you are missing (possibly because you are only referring to the dictionary definition without understanding the “Western” view of racism is that the word is used in the “West” now as discrimination by skin colour, not because you are from another ethnic group. If you are discriminating by Skin colour you are being racist, in the definition of the term now used in popular western culture.

      We also need to stop hiding behind this “Western/Eastern” mentality when looking at things. It’s a cultural misnomer that is used to cover up far too much crap on both sides of the fence. By this definition Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, Korea, Cambodia Micronesia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia etc all think the same as all of the European states, the Americas, Greenland, the Falkland Islands etc. As you can see, even as a philosophy it doesn’t work. Koreans for example have a completely different philosophy in many ways to Thai’s and it’s the same for the Danish and the English (and they are practically sitting next to each other as countries).

      We are never going to solve anything until we actually start looking at it for what it is, and that means stepping away from this whole “I’m going to lose face if I admit this is wrong” (or the “Western” version, that would be dishonourable to me). At the end of the day we are moving into a far more globalized world where different ethnic groups are coming into contact with each other more and more. This means we’ve got to rethink our paradigms of the world as people and as countries.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Karl,

        Thank you for sharing and clarifying the concept of racism with me.

        And first of all, I have to apologise if any of my comments are offensive or insulting to you. It was not my intention to make anyone believe that Thailand does not have this kind of discrimination, nor it is completely fine for Thai people to act that way toward darker skinned people or Black/African people. I can feel certain levels of irritation or “how you can think like that?” in your tone. But, it’s ok to make an assumption about me because you don’t know who I am. As you invite me into your conversation, I feel like I need to explain myself to you. I am not going to argue with you and will never ask you to defend how intelligent or accurate you are. I believe that, as you mention about your background, you are possibly more familiar with this issue more than me.

        If it makes you feel more comfortable, I am willing to call it racism. And I am sorry if my knowledge is not enough to analyse this kind of racism or to contribute an opinion to this issue.

        It was not my intention to use my privilege as a Thai citizen and my academic field, Sociology, to intimidate others or to validate my opinion. It is just an opinion, and I never make it a fact. I and my friends have studied in Sociology/Political Science in both Thailand and Western countries — Canada, New Zealand and Sweden. Please believe me that we have no intention to claim that “racism” does not exist. We have worked hard to raise this issue and always feel disappointed with this kind of discrimination that has happened here. One thing that we have discussed and agree is that from our experiences as Thai who also studied in Western countries, we see difference between racism in the eyes of people in Western societies and “racism” according to Thai people.

        To me, there is a risk when Thai “racism” is assumed to be identical with racism that happens in other countries. And I know that racism that happens in the US, France or the UK also connect with other factors, including class. I believe that racism around the world share something in common, but still have different details.

        I will divide my opinion into two parts.

        1) Thai racism within Thailand – when Thai people discriminate against each other.
        With my limited ability to describe my thoughts in English, I only want to explain that Thai racism is quite dominated by the concept of class more than pure ethnicity or nationality. Thailand has blurred concept of race and we still do not have a solid/unanimous agreement on what is a Thai race. To me, skin colour in Thailand is not completely connected to certain culture. In terms of physical features, Thai people from different backgrounds still look quite similar to each other – Sino-Thai, “native” Thai, Laosian-Thai, or Vietnamese-Thai. So, from Thai people’s perspective, skin colour is largely connected to class instead. It is hard to assume family background or one’s heritage based on skin colour. Some Sino-Thai people do have darker skin colour, while many “native” Thai have fair skin colour.

        Fair skin = rich / Dark skin = poor is a myth that Thai people have been socialised to believe in. Thai people want to have fair skin not because they want to be Europeans, or to become another race/nationality. The main idea of fair skin is good, because it is mainly accepted to be beauty ideal and a symbol of class superior. When I try to explain this issue, I don’t want to say that “Western people go back to where you are and mind your business.” No, not at all. I just want to add this details to share what I know, so it might be better to know certain details that are not much mentioned in this article. If you, as a non-Thai citizen, want to help, what I can do is to give what I, as an insider, know to you. So, you will have enough information to deal with Thai “racism”.

        I believe that Emma mentioned in her article about failure in explaining racism to Thai children. And this is what I attempted to help. Because Thai people still do not see this as a racism, and they mainly understand it as social values and a way to survive class struggle. I think it is quite important for non-Thai people to understand how Thai see their own “racism”, and convince them to strip down such perceptions and make them understand the definition of racism that others understand. Again, this my fault that I did not explain to you clearly.

        2) Thai racism and discrimination against foreigners.
        Similar to what I have already mentioned above. I think this is a combination of ignorance (the lack of knowledge about Black/African people and have prejudice against them based on Thai traditional point of view), xenophobia and racism. So, here, I never say that this is not racism.

        I am willing and open to accept other people’s knowledge or to listen to their opinion. What I try to do is not being delusional and blindly protect Thailand. I only want to help by explaining what happen, what Thai people think, so anyone can use this information for their own advantage to make a chance.

        Truthfully, some parts of your statement are offensive to me. Because, I don’t like being assumed to be those narrow-minded chauvinistic people. It hurts. But, again, I understand that others can have opinions and assumption about me. It’s ok. But, after I explain myself, I wish you would understand me more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There are a few points I forgot to state, just in case I still don’t explain my intention clear enough.

        My attempt to present Thai perception toward racism was not to cut Thailand from global community. Personally, I do not see globalisation as homogenisation. It is true that we need to agree on something to live together. But, I don’t think anyone have the rights to force/urge others to abandon their value to be like them. It is possible to talk and mutually negotiate to find the best solution for everyone as much as possible. Global community requires mutual communication and adjustment — not forcefully homogenisation nor fiercely defend one’s originality. As a Thai, I do hate when Thai people look down on Cambodian while still use their language, or live in buildings that are built by Burmese immigrants and still treat them poorly.

        I do not think that just only telling them to see Thai racism as a bad thing will be that easy. Thailand does not have strong concept or awareness of human rights in general. My concern is that just telling them to stop being racist but never tell them to untie other knots that are attached to Thai racism will not succeed in a long run.

        You can raise racism of other countries to educate me. I will not argue anything with you, because I have no knowledge about that. I will just listen and learn from you. And I will not challenge definition of “racism” in English because it is not my first language. You are correct in every aspects of your argument, except for a few accusation that I don’t like when they were applied to me.

        What I know and be familiar with is how Thai people understand this skin-colour-based discrimination and how they struggle with the combination of class/skin-colour discourses. But, if you think you are now possessing the most practical and effective solution to reduce racism in Thailand and my contribution of inside information is non-sense, you don’t need to take it to your consideration. I do respect your opinions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • How can a Thai person be racist against another Thai person? That doesn’t make sense.

        Can White Brit be racist against White Brits? Can a Nigerian be racist against a Nigerian? Can a Khmer be racist against a Khmer? Can a Black American be racist against a Black American?

        If a White Cop kills a White Innocent, is that racism? If a Black Cop kills a Black Innocent, is that racism?


      • I love when Westerners DEMAND that others view the world through their lens.

        You know…because the Western way of life IS NUMBER ONE! We’re right and you ignorant unwashed heathens of Asia are W R O N G…WRONG!

        But that’s not bigotry at all.

        See things our way or you are ignorant. After all, the world is become globalized and we are all becoming one big, happy Western family (whether you want it or not!).


    • Your comment is not straight . You tryna defend Thai people and their racist behavior and at the same time you trying to say yes we Thais are racist . Racism in Thailand is against dark skinned people forget all this long epistles . If you from Africa you are devil , if you call yourself African – American then you are partially welcomed because of the American attached . Meaning people will only associate with you because you’re American .


  5. Yes, everything you mentioned in this article is reprehensible, and Thailand needs to move ahead and rid themselves of such racist practices. But is it really that shocking? Before being surprised at how people of colour could be racist themselves, think about who created racism. The white people. The west. They created racism, oppressed black people and normalised that picture of subjugation of blacks. That image spread everywhere, even to underdeveloped countries like Thailand. Now the west, with all their economic and educational opportunities expanding, was quick to realise that racism was wrong, but the developing countries, with lesser resources, took longer. Now when a westerner like you appears to be shocked at the racist practices in Thailand, it is mildly offense-inducing to us living in the southeast asian countries. Because before you deplore the racism in Thailand, think of who created that racism. White people. The west. So if anyone is at fault for such racism to go on, it’s the west. Your own people created this. Thailand isn’t to blame here.


  6. This was an extremely interesting read. Thank you for sharing this with us. From the perspective of someone who was born in Thailand, raised in the United States, and has now moved back to Thailand, I agree with how there is undeniable racism in Thailand. However, you have to take into account that Thailand is not a western country and therefore has a distinct culture of its own. Yes, I believe the whole “whitening movement” is horrible and there is much discrimination against those of darker skin in Thailand. But you have to understand that much of the racism against black people here is unintentional. Most Thais do not understand that the words “negro” and “n***er” have negative connotations, but that still does not justify their discriminatory acts against black people (like the examples mentioned in the comments, i.e. charging entrance to a club because an individual is black but letting a white individual enter for free). I’m just going off on a tangent here, but I think what I’m trying to say is that Thailand is still a developing country, many years behind first-world Western nations. More than a third of the population live in rural areas where infrastructure needs fixing and poverty runs rampant. Think of the US 60 years ago, where the South was still segregated and public facilities were separated into white zones and black zones. Thailand is still developing, and with the hyper-conservative and constantly regime-changing government, it will take years for this “white is better” mindset to change. I’m not saying it’s acceptable, and I hate seeing so much whitening soap and deodorant in the aisles, but I want those who have not been exposed to Thai culture for most of their lives to try to understand that Thailand is still a developing country with much progress waiting to be made. Please try to see this from outside of a Western perspective, and be patient – after all, it took America 100 years to desegregate after slavery. I’m open to any ideas anyone might have after reading about my perspective on this issue 🙂


  7. I am black. I use whitening, not to make me white but to have slightly fairer skin. A fairer skin defines a better status in the society. I don’t have to be really white. I am contented with who I am.


    • Hey Annalisa

      Question: If you are content with who you are, why then do u need to lighten your skin? Your natural skin by itself is beautiful enough. You say that fairer skin dictates a higher position in society, but why would you ever allow society to dictate or define your beauty?


  8. Ok I will tell you why Thais prefer white skin over black. In the past, before a lot of chinese came to Thailand to settle down. There was no Thai that look like Chinese. The original Thai is dark brwon skin. And when chinese came here for years they are blending to be a part of Thai citizen thats the reason why a lot of Thais look like Chinese. We all Thai people know that chinese-thai person work much harder and more clever in doing business comparing to Original Thai which is much more lazier. Thus, the result is that most of the rich family in Thailand is Chinese (approx80%+ imo) I bet you do a research for the richest people in Thailand and see if their face look Chinese or not.
    On the other hand, a lot of low educate and poor from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia came to work in Thailand. Most will be the low-level labor. They even get less paid than Thai people. Not to mention, Original Thai, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar are from the same root which is dark brown skin.
    As what I have explained above, Thai people will feel that rich is white, dark skin is poor and low-educated. So a lot of people trying to whitening their skin as more white is more good. And that makes them look to be higher class.
    In my opinion, it is a trend and preference of people. It’s just like white people love dark brown tan Skin because it looks like a rich person.


    • I want to say something a little bit. I don’t think that East Asian original people is dark brown skin but we have them both, depend on area. Our ancestors come from many place and become thai not only when Chinese come and become Thai-Chinese people. As same as us in Laos and Myanmar too. Many of them have fair or pale/yellow skin but not Chinese half blood.(maybe they have same ancestors too but in long long time ago, not same time with thai-chinese great grandparents come which make us know we are thai-chinese.)
      And I agree with you about what make white skin become thai beauty standard. (sorry for my poor English)


  9. Preference of paler skin has been prevalent in Asia since ancient time, when there was not a single black person in Asia. You can look at ancient portrait of Chinese queens, and even the traditional Japanese geisha. They all have relatively white face. It has nothing to do with race, but it’s just a physical feature that most East Asians prefer. I can assure you that most Thai people won’t say African people are ugly, because they’re black, but they’d definitely say that paler skin in Asian would be preferable. Also, Darlie doesn’t to Black person in Chinese lmao. Do a better research next time.


    • Thanks for your explanation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything to explain the fact that black people face a lot of discrimination here NOW. You’re right that lots of people in Asia prefer light skin as a physical feature, but I’ve heard enough Thai people tell me that they think black people are scary and ugly to know that it’s a real problem. These problems exist everywhere and it’s never ALL people who feel that way, but we can’t deny that they exist. I’ll double check on that translation, but it seems to be correct.


      • Darlie toothpaste is called “Black Person Toothpaste” in Mandarin, Chinese… it’s not a direct translation of “Darlie” but the brand’s actual name in Chinese. Your research is perfect. Thank you for writing such a great article. I can’t believe some people are still trying to deny the truth. Keep up the good work!! You have the support of so many people, just wanted you to know that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yea actually it’s really funny you mention ancient times in Chinese and Japanese culture because they where dark. Even today u can find artifacts of Japanese who look African, but are Japanese. And even Chinese mummies. The features that are in those mummies are of African. What I’m saying is the Asian comes from “US” Infact I went to Lanta with a man who was Thai, and his hair was nappy like mine and he was just as black, matter a fact he was darker than me. Ask yourself how is it that some Thai’s, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, etc all had African-looking features back then and even today?


  10. First of all, I am Thai, born in Korat, and living in Bangkok Thailand. I have a dark skin. Most of my family have dark skin. I would like to call bullshit on this article!
    When most of the foreigner came to Thailand, you always heading to the same fuck up places. KhaoSanRoad, SoiNana, Pataya and other places that most local did not want to even step in. Then you assumed that all part of Thailand must be like that.
    I never have racist problem in Thailand. Yes, maybe most women like their ideal guy to be light skin, but it’s never to the point that they would deny talking to a dark skin guy. If what you said in the artical was true, I would have been a lonely man with no social status. That is really idiotic.
    I never been deny from work due to my skin complexion. I never been leftout from social sceen due to where I was born.
    In your article, you mention that a guy was worried about his skin and the doctor about to tell him to hope for it in the next life. I would like to explain that, we said it because we want to other party to deal with it. You are born with what you have, do not try to change it. We do not want them to make it a concern. If they really wanted to change it, then it maybe better of pray for it in the next life. Nothing much we can do about it, because Thai doctor finds this skin coulor issue to be a stupid subject.
    This article is …. Maybe if you talk to more people, a well educated people, you would undestand it better. However, what can we expects, you only spent a handfull amount of time in Thailand, not a life time.
    Ohh, one more thing, I never see Darkie or Black Man product before. You must be in a really fuck up part of town. If you look closely, you will still see chinese lable on it. We should not be responsible for that. Sorry!


    • Hi Pete,

      Thanks for your comment, although it is full of assumptions. I’ve lived in Bangkok for 5 years. Certainly not a lifetime but more than a ‘handful of time’, and I avoid places like Nana and Khao San as much as anyone else does. Sure, they’re full of tourists, but the majority of expats who have moved here for work long-term don’t go to those places. At least, the kind of people I usually spend time with don’t.

      You suggest that I talk to some more ‘well-educated people’, but the students I teach, the ones who’ve made most of the comments I’ve written about here, are engineers, executives, business owners, interpreters, lawyers, university and international school students, etc. One of them is a JUDGE in Samut Prakarn. Pretty well-educated, I would say.

      ‘Black Man’ and ‘Darlie’ are available in Big C. Again, just because YOU’VE never seen it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You can find the link to the online retailer in the post. Also, I find it odd that you say that Thailand shouldn’t be responsible for products they choose to distribute.

      This post does not suggest that a dark-skinned Thai person should be ‘lonely’. It certainly doesn’t say that women would not talk to them or that employers wouldn’t hire them. Perhaps you misunderstood.

      The stories I’ve written about here are experiences I’ve had during my 5 years here. You may not have had the same experiences, but you cannot assume that others haven’t. There are plenty of African-Americans, Burmese people etc who could tell you lots of stories about how they’ve felt discriminated against in Thailand. This post is not only about you.


    • Hello Pete,
      I’m a African American living in Thailand, and I can say first hand that there is a definite race problem in this country. I have exapirance taxi cab say is that ducking black man with you?(in Thai). Also police called me over while I’m walking down the street. To ask me if I know this guy, that they have arrested who was dealing drugs, He was black. The problem with that is that he was assuming that I a random black person walking down the street “had to be associated with this person who was breaking the law”. Now not all Thai’s have these assumptions or ideals, in fact I have met thai’s who are vary nice to me, and treat me with respect. I find it ironic that u call Nana a fucked up place seeing how blacks are primarily located there. Is it because of the prositution, gambling, hustling that’s prevalent in so call “high so” parts of Thailand..? Just a lil more hiding and more expensive….. LISTEN the vary concept that if you are light-skinned means that you are “educated and work inside and not in the feild puts u in a better social status, is called a “stereotype” and most stereotypical ideals are routed in predjudice/fear… And fear my is the bases of racism and discrimination, superialism. The entire world looks at “Africans” as inferior, or scary, or ugly. bad is associated with black. I am not inferior, I’m am not scary, to be black is beautiful. Just as ever othe color under the sun.


    • Hi pete,

      I understand what you’re saying and I respect your opinions .

      I’m a black Thai women that was born and raised in Pattaya my whole life . I’m now currently studying in Australia for my master course.

      However, I feel like you saying that kao Sarn or even Pattaya is a fucked up place isn’t right! Yes we have all those clubs and dirty ago go bars here in Pattaya but that’s just 1 street !!from the whole city !!!
      And just because foreigners come here for holidays and enjoy their time differently doesn’t necessarily means it’s a fucked up place.

      To be honest with you, this article is the most accurate explanation of Thai culture these days ! I’ve been discriminated myself in my own country because of my skin colour. It’s sad !! I’ve been bullied at school because I had the darkest skin . I was looked at in a very bad way when I had a job interview and didn’t get accepted because of my look ( exact words were black and fat) . They wanted someone to represent their company (and look good and attractive = white !)

      I’ve always looked down on myself and thought that it’s me , I hated myself . Until I had the opportunity to study overseas in this past 5 years ! Wow I can’t believe that I had to go through all that in my childhood , when over here people actually love my skin colour . I’ve received compliments a lot !!! And it just made me realise that as a Thai citizen , my own country needs to put this out loud that skin tone is not an “OK” topic to be discriminating on. It affects people’s lives and opportunities .

      Thai public ads or even justice and equality laws should change and take this seriously instead of looking at it as ” well it’s part of our culture”

      We Thai people have a very kind heart and we’re sweet and full of positivity in life. So why not try to change this thought of our own people and actually make the country better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Nadia,

        Thanks so much for your comment, I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying here. I’m so glad you had a positive experience studying abroad and were able to see all that self-hate was unnecessary!


    • Pete, I agree with your reply somewhat in that this article is seems a bit extreme and in some parts just plain over exaggerating. I’m Luk Kreung Dam (1/2 Thai & 1/2 Black American) and have visited the motherland many times. Though I’ve garnered an occasional stare, mostly out of curiosity I suppose. I have never experienced any direct racism in Thailand nor incidents similar to those stated in previous replies. However, I’ve seen numerous television ads and billboards advertising skin whitening products and don’t get me started on some of the crazy things I’ve seen Thais do to avoid sunlight. My cousin would rock a sweater, jeans, and neck scarf in 100-degree weather to avoid sunlight. Though I don’t know of anyone personally being denied a job based on skin tone, I’ve read and heard it is the norm in Thailand as in most Southeast Asian countries. Especially in service industries like hotel staff, flight attendants, tour guides, etc. While I agree there isn’t direct blatant racism, Thailand does seem to have a color complex. More of a subvert racism if you’d say.


      • Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for the comment. It’s great to hear that you haven’t experienced any of these things that other people have listed here, and that would explain why you think the article is an exaggeration, but there are people who do experience these things all the time here.

        I’m a bit confused by the part where you say that you’ve heard that it’s the norm to be refused certain jobs based on skin tone, but that there isn’t direct racism? Quite the contradiction there.

        Also, what does ‘subvert racism’ mean?


  11. I’m Thai with no Chinese ancestors, I born with darker skin, far darker than my own sister. My mother often recalled how my uncle teased her i was switched at hospital, he couldnt believe his niece will be this dark. I lived in the heart of Bangkok, where most of residents are Chinese-Thai, I studied at school near my house where friends are fairer skin, and i’m bullied because of dark skin. I always think my skin as ‘DUM’ (black colour). Somehow when i grew up, my skin look fairer (I never go th


  12. I’m Thai, with no Chinese ancestors. Born dark skin, far darker than my own sister, the comparision, the bulli started since the the I was born. My mother often told me how my uncle teased her that I was switched from the hospital, he never believe his niece could be so dark. Living in Silom area, in the heart of Bangkok, I went to private school in the area with most of Thai-Chinese friends. Often bullied for my dark skin, and I always feel that I’m ‘DUM’ (black colour). I always stay under shadow, wear sunscreen, put on lotion. Until in university, some friend noticed that I worried about my skin colour, and asked me why. I told her I dont like my dark skin, and she said but you have fair skin, you are fairer than me. And then we talk on how we see each other more beautiful and I started to accept myself as the way I am.

    We have racist here, for those who never experience doesnt mean it not exist.

    I am now mother of two. My daughter born, like me, darker skin. And all my relatives assured me i was far darker than her and grew up with fair skin, so I should not worry, my daughter will grow up more beautiful (i never complain, my daughter is beautiful to me no matter how she looks to other). My son has fair skin, and you know what happened, my daughter was teasted while my son was praised for his ‘beautiful fair skin’. This issue always annoyed me and at age of 8, my daughter started say something like “i dont like my face” when i asked why? She said “it’s darker that my friends”. This really upset me, and I always assure her how beautiful she is, the very same thing my father told me when i was young.


    • Thanks so much for your comment. It’s so sad to hear how both you and your children have had to deal with that. It’s surprising how young children can pick up on these things as well, and how damaging it can be. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you who will let her know how beautiful she is and teach her not to listen to bullies. I think you’ll appreciate this video of a mother reassuring her child after she starts crying because she doesn’t like her skin colour. It almost broke my heart to watch:


    • Hi, I want to say something about other comments that said our problem is not racism problem. I want to explain that for you a little, I think it confused because of our thai-language which have เหยียดผิว & เหยียดเชื้อชาติ and lot of “เหยียด”problem . Which made we think that racism is about race but our most dark skin people problem is about love/hate and stereotypes with beauty standards (I didn’t say we don’t have racism problem by race, but most of our problems is about our skin color, mostly we don’t fight and beating each other by race thai-Chinese,thai,Indian-thai,etc have same problem when they have dark skin). I think that what they want to say. But I English maybe it all call racist which make this two problem can’t separate but when it come to thai language we have a lot of vocabulary. Maybe call this problem with the one word “racism” make most people want to debate that our problem is not start by race.
      And when this entry didn’t say about our real problem, didn’t explain about our real and most problems not happen because of race(and write it with word “racist”) But from other reasons(maybe because in English use one word describe all problems). That make people come and said that racism is not our conflict but about skin tone problems.

      To be honest, if you (writer) don’t explain about the root and real problem of thai is about other things not happen by race conflict but also call racist. You will have to explain it in comments reply for thousands time that every problem call racist because for Thai our daily racism is not about race lol (we have race problems too but it not mainly just depends on annoying people not big as group or part of society and mostly in their mind don’t show and beating other race as face just keep it in their head because most of us love to be look so good and kind)


  13. Let me just start by saying that the irony of this article is slightly amusing given that the writer is a white English teacher in Thailand.

    Is there racism in Thailand? Yes, it exists but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t bigoted or racist against something. As others have alluded the topic of skin whitening isn’t rooted in racism. How they feel about the Burmese is another story though.

    What we’re seeing with skin whitening is more to do with socio-economics and is the same consumer driven image obsessed culture (driven by the West) that prompts people (not just in Thailand) to need to buy a new iPhone every year or drive a Benz or run in $300 trainers in 40 degree heat while insuring that that every cm of their route is visible on their newsfeed. I guess swimming pool selfies haven’t trended yet.

    So if we want to put an end to the skin whitening craze maybe we should close down Rocket, Hyde and Seek, Krispy Kreme, tell Apple to take a hike, and get Nike to make some cool looking arm band floaties. Oh and boycott any school that doesn’t give equal opportunity and pay to Asian English teachers.


    • Yes, I am a white English teacher in Thailand. Yes, that position comes with privilege. I am very aware of that and how unfair it is. Your comment about lack of opportunity and equal pay for Asian teachers is one of the many reasons why I left my first teaching job at a government school here for a much fairer language institute. After doing so, I then helped an Asian friend get a job there so that she could have the same opportunity that I did. Even so, why should I have to explain any of this to you?

      ‘You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t bigoted or racist against something’. Perhaps, but the question is whether or not you’re willing to do anything to change that. Minimizing the problem or placing blame elsewhere helps no one.

      Strange comments about my Instagram account are irrelevant, but anything to avoid talking about the actual problem, right?


      • In your rebuttal you failed to address the serious flaw in your article. One that permeates through the majority of modern day social equality debates, the lack of understanding or ill-conceived notions of the topic their discussing. Too many self pseudo sociologists are actually doing more damage by jumping on for example the ‘you’re a racist’ bandwagon without first taking a step back and examining the context of the situation. What this does is create less constructive discussion as people become more and more afraid of free speech or focus on the wrong solutions.

        Several Thai people have commented on the true nature of these product brands and adverts, that it’s not racist but socio-economic and is really no more racist than the brands of KFC and Aunt Jemima.

        I just don’t see the intent to be hateful in the majority of your examples. Seems to me you’re just jumping on the racism bandwagon.

        BTW I have extensive experience in the Thai education system so I don’t believe that you’ve found a school that offers equal opportunity to native Asians to that of a white westerner. If you have it would be great to mention them as they could be used as a beacon of hope for the one of the more legitimate examples of racism in Thailand.


      • First of all, I think it’s understandable why I wouldn’t want to publish my place of work here. Whether or not you believe it is of no importance to me, but there are Thai and Korean teachers working alongside me in the same position and receiving the same salary as I do.

        Secondly, it’s interesting that you brought up Aunt Jemima as an example because it’s widely criticized for how racist it is.

        Of course, the skin whitening craze is not ONLY rooted in racism. There are lot of different factors in place here, such as the same nationalism that causes people to respond to crimes with ‘a Thai person couldn’t have done this’. It’s not only Prayuth who spouts this trash, a student of mine did the same just last week when I told her someone had attempted to pickpocket me a few years ago. “I don’t think he was Thai, he must have been from Myanmar”. The use of blackface in the advertising of these whitening products is what I’m focusing on here. Regardless of whether it’s intentionally hateful, it ignorantly perpetuates dangerous stereotypes. The idea that white skin is superior is deeply ingrained here, and it all links in to the various forms of racism, such as black tourists being disproportionately stopped by police in the streets. I only have to walk around with my African American boyfriend and observe the looks of disgust he often receives, how people get up and move away from him when he sits down on the BTS and how he’s been refused service at some places. You can make excuses for skin whitening all you want, but you can’t deny that racism is alive and well here.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. As a Thai, I think the reason why we don’t use the word racism here (in Thailand and Asia in general) is: it’s not actually about ‘race’, but about ‘hierarchy’. You have said it correctly, dark skin often signifies poverty and hard labour while white skin signifies wealth, which means ‘everyone’ can turn dark or white. Not that it’s really fixed by races. Thai people by nature know they are dark; but if they stay in the shade for a long time (rich enough to have jobs that are not in the field) the skin gets lighter. So it’s not exactly like the issue between the Caucasoids and Negroids. We are all Mongoloids here.

    Of course we have people of many roots. The obviously ‘whitest’ among us is the Chinese descendants, which is the group people try to imitate. (Believe it or not, when people here say ‘white people’ they mean the Chinese, not the westerners. Caucasians are of little importance to us since they are not in our immediate community.) The Chinese descendants are the richest class here and own about 90% of Thai main businesses. They control the politics and economics. They have even been marrying into royalties since the beginning of Rattanakosin era. (There have been many propagandas against the Chinese though, especially in the reign of King Rama 6 as he called the Chinese “Jews of Asia” and that he wanted the Thais to stop the Chinese from taking control of the country, but to no avail. And today Chinese descendants really own the country as he predicted.) Most of the Chinese descendants are also in the capital, so their white skin is something ‘urban’ in contrast to poor underdeveloped countrysides.

    BUT are people trying to be Chinese? NO. Even real Chinese descendants would eagerly say they are Thai. They even try not to use obvious Chinese names or surnames. They want to be Thai(dark by nature) but they also love the fact that they look naturally white(rich). And people of other races too. So how is this about ‘racism’ I have no idea. It’s not about any particular race hating on another race, but about classes/hierarchy. Who is richer or poorer. Many Thai people say the country shouldn’t be named “Prathed Thai” (Thailand) but “Prathed Krungthep” (Bangkok land) since everyone desires to go into the capital and look like they are originally from the capital even though they aren’t. This is the problem of the over-centralization of Thailand. The gap between the standard of life in the capital and outside the capital is bloody huge, as in the gap between the rich and the poor. And the more poor people turn thieves and are reported as criminals in the news (since they have little money and education and have many children, for they don’t know birth control), the more people in the middle class try to look white as to appear nothing like them. Or teach children that ‘dark faces’ (reads: poor) might be ‘thieves’. To sum up, if you say it’s racism I would have to disagree. Skin tones aren’t races. I can confirm that the Thais are racist in some aspects (towards the Caucasians who ‘taint’ their strict culture and religion) but not on this.

    About the beauty in Eastern and Western eyes. Hm… I don’t know if this is right, but I feel things are similar to the west, but just in contrast. People here try to appear white to show that they are rich enough not to work in the sun. Or that they are somehow Chinese descendants (reads: have filthy rich family). That life is good and comfortable for them (reads: not having to work in the sun). And Thai people perceive white as beautiful and exotic (and the media fuels it by showing half foreign actors/actresses, which I suspect is the same around the world as exotic things are usually more attractive). In the contrary, people in the west try to look tanned in order to show that they are wealthy enough to travel to some beaches. To have an ‘Urlaub’. That they have the time to go out in the sun and not looking like some junkies (no offence to pale people here, it’s just that drug addicts and nerds in western media seem to be portrayed that way. I cannot grasp why.) It’s not really that white people there try to look black; they just want to look ‘tanned’ as they think it’s beautiful , or like they just went on some awesome holidays, to the extent that they have fake tan products in the same way Thai people have whitenings. I don’t suppose you think fake tans are racist, and I don’t think whitenings are either. The beauty issue is about hierarchy both here and there in my opinion. Both ridiculous yet so deeply ingrained that it’s hard to change. Anyone wants to be, or at least appear, rich.


    • P Chamnong.

      I feel as if you don`t truly understand the entire range and spectrum of racism. Racism is a phenomenon that comes in many forms and facets. The particular case in Thailand is called internalized racism.(Internalized racism is loosely defined as the internalization by people of racist attitudes towards members of their own ethnic group, including themselves. This can include the belief in ethnic stereotypes relating to their own group.) Here are some definitions of Internalized racism:
      In French and Belgian colonies, native African or Asian who was baptized Catholic and could read and write was called an évolué (“evolved or developed person”). They could look down upon other natives as belonging to a lower class.
      In a Portuguese colony an educated native was called an assimilado. their have even been self-hating Jews. In 1930 Theodor Lessing wrote the book Der Jüdische Selbsthass (The Jewish Self-Hatred). He argued that some Jews take over antisemitic points of view from their environment. The term is sometimes used rhetorically for Jews who criticize Israel or Zionism, or who have a lifestyle that differs from orthodox Judaism.
      Blacks and mixed-race people sometimes strive towards being lighter-skinned. They can use skin bleaching products, apparently accepting the prejudice that white is superior or more beautiful. Women can try to get children with a lighter skin by marrying a man with a lighter color. This notion that once one has achieved a new level of prosperity, rather it be through economic, educational, surgical/cosmetic no longer chooses to associate with those who are right behind them.

      My point is even though Thai`s know that they are dark skin by nature they still are putting the physical attributes of other races as being superior. This is a quote from your comment, in top of the 2nd paragraph: ”The obviously ‘whitest’ among us is the Chinese descendants, which is the group people try to imitate. (Believe it or not, when people here say ‘white people’ they mean the Chinese, not the westerners. Caucasians are of little importance to us since they are not in our immediate community.) The Chinese descendants are the richest class here and own about 90% of Thai main businesses”.

      Also Thailand, in particular Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, etc are international hotspots. i would go as far to call them cultural melting pots. In these places, you have people who are dark-skinned, such as myself, who encounter racism daily. I’m constantly stopped by police when I’m peacefully walking down the street. Thai women have looked at me with disgust for being with a white woman. They will actually get up and move away from me when I sit down sometimes. (I don`t stink, I`ll sometimes even be 1 seat down from them already). When statements are made saying that being dark #-skinned indicates that you’re poor, a thief or have many children because you are uneducated about birth-control, it’s an insult. I have talked with light-skinned Thais who have abused drugs, had babies at a young age, have done criminal activity, and some never graduated from the 8th grade don`t even mention high school, so it’s not as if these things are exclusive to dark-skinned people. I have even seen ads in magazines of black super models who skin have been photoshopped to make them appear lighter skinned.

      Truth be told i think beauty is in all shades of color, including white. but to denounce dark skin, and say white skin is more beautiful is to limit and close yourself off to the vast arrays of beauty that humanity displays……Here are some websites you might find interesting:


  15. First off, it is a truly very nice blog. We need someone to look in and give us comments on things we can’t see from the inside. I just left the comment in one of you posts, it said “All that we are is the result of what we have thought” (Tripiṭaka). It means you are caused to feel upset by your thought. I was born in Thailand and lived there over 10 years then I moved to US and stay here for over 10 years. I have seen differences between these places. Racism is always a sensitive topic. It can be tough and hurtful. However, I have never been offended by a racist comment because I am proud of my native appearance and most important I have never been raised in the environment of racism. Many people take it in the wrong way and many times take advantage of this particular issue. I was once attended an Asian american society meeting. Unexpectedly, at the meeting we discussed a topic of racism. I was surprised by many of my colleagues when they were sharing the stories of how they were offended. Those stories were: you have chinky eyes, you are Asian – you must be good in math, you are Asian – you must be clean, etc. I don’t understand why we can have a china town, a Korean town, a black church, a Hispanic heritage month, etc but no you can not have a white meeting. Many of my friends are black. Some of them weren’t allow to date a white person or taught to disdain others kind of races. If you look at the history racism, it wasn’t an issues until African were shipped and sold as slave in America. As a matter of fact, some of the black family in the early European settlement in america were a slave master. I understand that slavery toward black start a long way black and it is difficult to forget but at some point they have to let it go and blend in to the society. People can be easily manipulated, Thai is no exception, black people was painted as bad and scary by the western media. It helps when you try to explain and make it better in Thailand but it starts back form the western and especially black people.


    • It’s called white guilt. More and more young, educated/privileged (mostly American) Caucasians are now being raised in a society that has to carry the burden of guilt of their recent ancestors and the pressure is so great that they feel the need to traverse the globe and pass off that guilt on other cultures at the first sign of what they view as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, etc. even though they are passing on ideologies stemming from their history and culture. Interestingly enough, places like America are actually moving backward in some parts and citizens are killing each other in mass, but the rest of the world is wrong and they’re right. It would be one thing if their motivations stemmed from a conscience effort to actually create true equality but as the writer has shown it is more to do with the guilt of living in an oppressive politically correct society that was born from the ethnocentric atrocities committed by their forefathers. The major flaw in all of this is that they focus on problems that are fed to them by mass media, buzz subtopics that act as misdirection to the real problem, the massive separation of social classes and the of the illusion that it’s actually possible for everyone to traverse the social ladder.

      Often times, we see these attempts at retribution fall short of their goal because of a lack of true convictions that are often foiled by the underlying hypocrisy of their message or the inability of the do-gooder to understand that these issues are often misconstrued due to a lack of contextual understanding.

      My message is obviously one of cynicism as historically, the drive to be a savior of the world usually runs its course around the time that it’s no longer financially feasible to live the life of a capitalist missionary, usually between 25-30.

      If the writer continues this endeavor, I would like to offer up a little bit of advice. The people who are able to read this blog aren’t your target audience (no offense to the Thai contributors). The ones who are buying into this whole skin whitening craze are mostly of substandard education and therefore aren’t able to read your message. The ones that can read and understand are probably in the set that everyone else is trying to emulate or aren’t too concerned as they have the opportunities that the pigment challenged folks seem to crave. Your message may be better served if you write it in Thai and post on but I would leave the white teacher bit out because I think we would agree that in Thailand, quality education what really leads to opportunity 😉


      • LukKreung this comment is ridiculous. are saying that Racism is a ” white mans invention and problem, that Thai`s cannot fix or want fix. Because the white folks started”. Because that notion is full of Asinine Racial Finger pointing, fuel by words that come from a vary delusional, Narcissistic individual who refuse to take a look at the ”cultural Mirror”. your statement, ”in Thailand, quality education what really leads to opportunity😉” well quick questions are their any Nigerian Doctors working in Thailand, or does Thailand have Mexican Senators, or Italian police, i have yet to see a pakistani Cab driver here in this country. Any country that does not have at a lest middle eastern cab drivers in there country is proof enough that little racial equality exist in that nation. education means nothing, when you cannot walk next to your fellow man.


      • This post has nothing to do with ‘white guilt’. It certainly has nothing to do with finger pointing, either. Racism exists all over the world. Yes, it exists in America (which is where you seem to think I’m from) as it also does here. Yes, it affects people of various cultural backgrounds. It’s OK to think that ALL of that is wrong and still highlight issues here. No one is denying that racism exists elsewhere and in many forms, but it’s not a competition and none of this actually helps. I’m not going to take the time to respond to the rest of your comments, because I’m not sure what you’re trying to achieve other than to assert some kind of false superiority.


    • First your comments about my History are vary incomplete. Also you saying at some point Blacks needs to just get over slavery and move on in society, largely shows your lack of empathy, and knowledge of nasty underbelly of American history. Which i’m not going to get into now. However i would love for u to Clarify this statement….”It helps when you try to explain and make it better in Thailand but it starts back form the western and especially black people.” because is exactly the problem. Thailand has a Race issue and all you and others do is talk about who brought it to your door step. In regards to Racism Caucasians has to deal with what they has done, true. Africans must deal with what they have done along with the Arab. How Thai`s are not excused because Thais are racist and prejudice toward Africans, Europeans, Cambodians, Chinese, japanese….etc. it does not matter who thought you how to be racist, as much will you teach your children not to be?


      • “Also you saying at some point Blacks needs to just get over slavery and move on in society, largely shows your lack of empathy, and knowledge of nasty underbelly of American history.” I think this is exactly what has to happen. No one is asking for you to forget but to forgive otherwise you will just continue to buy into the stereotype of the angry aggressive black man.

        You should also consider what you’re asking. You say that Thai people should ignore what they are learning from western pop culture and history but you yourself are propagating the same ideology by taking an event that you did not personally experience and use it to shape your ideologies. Let us not forget that many Asian immigrants were also subjected to slave-like conditions and arguably experience a wider range of bigotry and oppression in America today than black people but instead of taking the ‘victim’ route they instead take advantage of the many advantages available to minorities and better themselves through education.

        You also criticize Thais and create judgments of the whole based on a few experiences but then say that Thais are wrong because they have created stereotypes of blacks based on their experiences with the majority of Africans who have come to stay in Thailand. When you consider that historically, most of the foreigners who have come to Thailand over the last 40+ years have come here for often negative/selfish reasons and most have failed to adapt to local customs/culture is it really that difficult and fair to damn the locals for creating negative perceptions of people from China, Africa, Europe, America, etc.? What’s amazing about Thailand is that it would probably only take a few years of positive experiences with these same cultures to reverse these perceptions. The question is, will these countries actually send positive representatives or just continue to take advantage of the socio-economics of Thailand?


  16. See this is exactly what i am saying…. seems like to me you are regurgitating a racist ideologies that someone like trump would say. How do u just get over 400+ years of slavery, 100yrs of jim crow, 50ys of civil injustice, even today racism is gunning down my unarmed brothers and hanging my sisters. you don`t just get over that. You can only forgive something that is in the past. Racism is still happening to us. and it seems that it has spread around the world. because Thais has allowed a vary nasty mentality into their culture and want acknowledge the fact that it is alive and well here. instead you point out our problems. like the boy who mother told him he could not eat any cookies….. after his mother catches he`s hand in the cookie jar, and he points at his sister and says she left the lid open and didn`t put it back on the shelf.


    • Is it racism or the socio-economic pressures of capitalist America because what I am seeing more of is your brothers and sisters gunning down each other as well as the caucasian community doing the same to their own. IMOP the situation involving the shooting of blacks by police is stemming from a boiling over of fear on both sides of the equation. Are some of these shooting racially motivated yes, but many also seem to stem from the fear created by wild west mentality that the gun culture of America has maintained since it’s inception that is now turning on it’s head due to the animosity created by forced integration.

      What’s happened in places like America, which differs from places like Thailand, is that melting pot societies often result from different and opposing cultures living in close proximity to each other and the refusal of these cultures to adapt to point that both can live peacefully among each other. Racism is often used to define these differences and due to past atrocities, one side is often forced to give up their beliefs to make amends for things they didn’t commit which has resulted in some of the tension we see today.

      Thailand differs in this regard because they don’t have people forced to be here and adapt to the culture against their will like African Americans had to in America. Instead, they’ve had people coming here voluntarily demanding that they adapt to theirs. In some aspects, the culture can learn some things from the west to improve overall quality of life in this country but I think it should be more for the locals and not for foreigners.


      • Amendment to my statement, there are people forced to be here due to slave labor and or socio-economics of surrounding third world countries and the atrocities committed against them are deplorable.


      • why do you continue to tlk about whats happening in other countries, when we are conversing about Racism here in Thailand.


  17. “LukKreung this comment is ridiculous. are saying that Racism is a ” white mans invention and problem, that Thai`s cannot fix or want fix. Because the white folks started”. Because that notion is full of Asinine Racial Finger pointing, fuel by words that come from a vary delusional, Narcissistic individual who refuse to take a look at the ”cultural Mirror”. your statement, ”in Thailand, quality education what really leads to opportunity😉” well quick questions are their any Nigerian Doctors working in Thailand, or does Thailand have Mexican Senators, or Italian police, i have yet to see a pakistani Cab driver here in this country. Any country that does not have at a lest middle eastern cab drivers in there country is proof enough that little racial equality exist in that nation. education means nothing, when you cannot walk next to your fellow man.”

    Again applying the racist card to something that isn’t racist and showing your lack of knowledge of the local culture. Thailand doesn’t have Nigerian doctors, Pakistani cab drivers, or Mexican Senators because they reserve these jobs for locals only. Nationalism not racism. There are also plenty of Thai doctors with darker skin and if anything the cab drivers must be racist against white skin based on your logic, because we don’t see too many of those. How many Pakistani congressman are there in America? One definite case of racism in the workplace in Thailand is in the education system though so maybe someone should take that mirror and point it to their immediate left.

    I am not saying that racism is a white man’s invention, internal racism existed in Africa leading to them selling their own people into slavery. What I’m saying is that the author is displaying a lot of the characteristics of what is considered white guilt by calling things racist that aren’t.


  18. My friend Nationalism a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries
    : a desire by a large group of people (such as people who share the same culture, history, language, etc.) to form a separate and independent nation of their own. and again we not talking about Africa. you continuously point out other cultures but i am sitting here telling you that i have experience racism from Thai`s. and you are arguing me down saying it`s not racism. This what i want u to do go back up to the top of this blog there is a video of a Thai woman drinking out of a glass. watch that, because i was extremely insulted by that commercial…. also can tell me the people that are in that commercial? i will wait for you comment…


    • I’m not saying that you haven’t experienced racism in Thailand. I’m fully aware of the fact that Thais can have a negative perception of foreigners but it’s not like a lot of these perceptions aren’t rooted in years of overwhelmingly negative experiences. But comparing that to the racism of the west and trying to associate the desire for many Asians to have lighter skin to the racism that blacks have experienced in American is totally off base which is why I keep mentioning other places.

      They are separate concepts and should be presented as such.


  19. If you still have an idea of Pakistani as your cab driver, then you still have an impression of inferior race status. My point was “you were offended by your own idea” and trying to make it better with the lack of free minded at the end of the problem, it’s not ideally. You were happily comparing racial equality with an existing of Middle eastern cab drivers. However, if I rephrase you comment with a black janitor. That would be awkward and racist. Many of white Americans were shot by a police. Nonetheless, they were seldom mentioned in the news because they weren’t getting any attention form the media. My cousins are half black, I went to HBCU, African-American history in US is devastating but you just have to let your history go for a better sake. I agree that judging others ability base on their races are not acceptable but what you have seen in Thailand were just a stereotype. By the way, I agree with his/her comments (LuKKreung).


    • Hi David,

      It seems like you’re addressing Tu’s comments, in which case it would be best to repost this as a reply to him, otherwise he won’t be notified. Also, even if telling an entire group of people to let their history go was a reasonable request, I don’t see how it would make any difference with regards to the way they’re treated in Thailand, which is what this post is about.


    • First the man who forgets there history is doomed to repeat it… Second who are you to tell me to forget my peoples history. That Is creditably ignorant, multiple levels. Even if I took a whole group of blacks and somehow made them “forget their history” it wouldn’t change the fact that they are experiencing racism in Thailand. Which is the basis of this discussion and foundation of your delusion, what is causing you to deny racist tendencies Thailand has. go back up to the top of this article and look at the video with the lady drinking the glass. Then speak.


      • You’re doing the same thing. You’re telling Thai people to forget their history with black people which has mostly been negative, through personal experience and through western mass media. You have developed your perceptions based on your history and Thailand has as well. You and Emma are both really coming off as self righteous hypocrites.


  20. I don’t know about David, but I think it’s relevant because it can create ill-conceived notions of what he may perceive as racism based on a non-contextual misunderstanding.

    Take for example the lady who got up and moved away from him on the BTS. What he may believe to be a response due to him being black may actually be due to just him being more imposing. I often see similar responses when large muscular men of any nationality, including Thai, travel on the BTS or MRT. I myself, a mixed Eurasian with an athletic build, have experienced several similar responses when I travel via public transport, especially if I’m wearing a tank top.
    Keep in mind that there were plans for the BTS to add a separate car for women as they are often afraid to stand near anyone else while commuting on the train. This is a learned response based on the ‘rape culture’ that you addressed in another blog post.

    It should also be noted that the incident where he was out running and was then asked to produce his passport wasn’t just an issue confined to black people. Foreigners and Thai alike have all been subjected to random stop and searches since the military has taken power and has been a regular occurrence during the various recent coups that have taken place.

    What you guys should do is stop pointing fingers and provide positive examples of your culture. Teach Thais that hip hop videos that glorify gangsta life and violence, misogyny, and excess are not accurate representations of blacks in America or that not all native Africans are drug dealers and human traffickers but in many cases even more poor and marginalized than many in Thailand. That being white doesn’t automatically equal superior privilege, that it’s all just mass media marketing bs to get people to buy into a shallow lifestyle. I find that there is typically less resistance with proactive and not reactive communication.

    Food for thought: If you saw this poster hanging in a Thai person’s house would you consider it racist given the racism that was prevalent within that industry at the time?

    How about a logo of a black basketball player like say Michael Jordan’s? Doesn’t that promote the stereotype that all black people are good at basketball?


    • I realise that police checks are happening more and more as a result of the military government, the expat community is well aware of this, but the point I made in the post was that when I passed the same police officers, I wasn’t stopped. In fact, I was met with smiles, thumbs up and shouts of ‘very good!’ It’s also not as if this is a one-off. And this is just one of many examples.

      Interesting that you’ve insisted we ‘stop finger pointing’. At no stage have I ever mentioned that Thailand needs to forget any kind of ‘history’, or suggested any solutions or steps that Thai people ought to take. On the other hand, you have consistently laid blame elsewhere. You’ve pointed the finger at the West as if it’s solely responsible for the racism people receive here, pointed the finger at black people for clinging onto their history and ‘playing the victim’, and then done the same again when saying that it’s up to us to provide positive examples of our culture. So it’s not the responsibility of all humans not to be racist, but for those who are victims of that racism to give them an reason not to be? It sounds a lot like when Donald Trump said:

      “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best….They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

      It’s easy to understand where his idea comes from, but when the facts were checked, they were just not there to support what he was saying. The same goes here.

      As for your Michael Jordan example, I can only imagine that it’s a joke and leave it at that.


  21. Congratulations! You have just won the argument, successfully protected Thailand`s ‘Land of Smiles’ image, and once again proven that the farang are very ignorant. Whatever happened to you checking that video out up top and getting back to me about that? BTWm both your comments indicate exactly what i am speaking to.


    • To TU, racism is wrong and it is unacceptable. I hope, we are free of that idea. But calling a person black for many people including me can be as simple as calling another white, brown, short, blondie, tall, built, etc. For the video, the first video is wicked but the idea of black equal bad came from the western media where it is the cause of the problem. Kids generally has no race barrier or less when they are compared with adults because they haven’t been exposed to the media. It is the same in Thailand. If we have never been exposed to the idea of black guy is bad, we will never have the first video. For others, I don’t see anything wrong if you’d like to have fairer skin, much like many white would like to have their skin tanned. I am not in the position to tell you what to do but if this blog opens to public’s opinion, I am just expressing my view.

      To Under the Ropes, some of the incident that your boyfriend had were bad and I hope it would never have happened to anyone. But, is it wrong to have a preference on fairer skin? Would it be offensive to skinny people if many people prefer a muscular body? That’s my point.


      • Well said David and I agree. It’s interesting that Tu found my examples racist. The first is now considered beautiful art and the second is a billion dollar global brand worshipped by people all over the world but he considers them racist.


      • To clear up some misunderstanding there, by ‘both of your examples’, he was referring to the two comments you posted, not the two images you mentioned, so to state that he found those two examples racist is incorrect. It’s more that they were ridiculous and not worth responding to.


      • David,

        It’s one thing to have a personal preference, but it’s another to teach on a wide scale that dark skin is ugly and people who hold it are scary, buffoonish, poor or just generally bad. The skin whitening alone may seem like nothing more than a trend, but it all ties into these ideas, which in turn feeds into racism in one way or another. The problem with the Seoul Secret ad isn’t simply that it’s promoting a whitening product, it’s that it gives a very clear message that you need to be white to be successful. The modern adaptation of Khao Nawk Naa wouldn’t be wrong for simply showing a dark-skinned character, but it promotes the idea that she is inferior because of it. I understand your comparison to body shape ideals, and this is something that is widely criticized and challenged in the media, too. A Google search for ‘body shaming’ will show how much more aware both the media and the public are becoming of this. As someone who has previously suffered from an eating disorder and once obsessed over comparing myself to impossibly unrealistic images, I can tell you that these portrayals are equally damaging because of the self-hate they promote. We can debate about who is responsible for the inception of these ideas, but the real question is, now that we have them, is it right to perpetuate them?


  22. UtR: Do you have a Bachelors in education and a teaching license? And is your ‘school’ an actual primary/secondary school or an English language ‘tutoring’ center?


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  24. Thailand, is one of the 5 most racist countries in the world. As a brown man, I have been shouted at, refused service, ignored and told off by street vendors, refused entry into bars. Land of smiles? NOT. More like Land of racists.
    If you are brown or black, avoid Thailand, go spend your money and vacation somewhere else.


  25. Just adding a little information here. Being Thai is a lot more diverse than you think. For example, did you know that there are Black people who are indigenous to Thailand? Look up the Mani Tribe.

    Therefore, just as you say Thais and Thailand are like this and like that, please respect that just like in your own countries, Thailand has a wide variety of people with a wide variety of thoughts. Some may be racists, but many may not have that concept at all. The problem is when you’re in a foreign land, you get into that automatic mode of “us” vs. “them,” and you lose that common-sense realization that “they” are not all the same, but are also very diverse and individualized. You meet a Thai that you do not like, and automatically, he or she is a Thai rather than that particular individual. You meet more like that, and automatically, it’s most of the country rather than realizing that you have now concentrated on collecting evidence by focusing on a particular type of individuals. What happened to the hundreds of perfectly good people that you just walked by prior to the 5 people that caught your attention in a negative way? And you talk about products, how many people who used the previous “Darkie” toothpaste actually thought about race when they bought it? Or was it just a toothpaste to them? Yet, they’re also being blamed for the racism. Like, I said, Blacks are also indigenous to Thailand – as in the Mani People.


  26. great article, well researched, reflects well what I’ve seen/heard from coworkers and my thoughts as a non-Thai living here. comments section thoughtful too.
    anecdote: my Thai language instructor told me she can’t go to Khao San to the clubs because the bouncers told her she has a big butt and if they let her in, “black men will follow her inside the club”. Her friends went inside and she went home, that was her last time clubbing in khaosan.


  27. Thank you for writing this. As a Thai-American, I’m so ashamed to hear how racist and backwards our people can be when it comes to Colorism and Racism. We need to call ourselves out on these backward attitudes and realize that white isn’t always all right.


  28. Pingback: Teaching English in Thailand: My Most Ridiculous Experiences | Under The Ropes

  29. Pingback: The complete guide to an amazing trip to Thailand - Infinite Curl

  30. Pingback: Going Viral in Thailand – The Response to my Post on Rape Culture | Under The Ropes

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