I am a shade of brown/a person of color/a visible minority. I remember always feeling uncomfortable when I would listen to my friends describe skin color. I used to spend all day and night in the sun. Growing up in Europe, my only concern was having fun. The British were huge fans of tanning--maybe that is why Coach has a shade of leather labeled, "British Tan".
My diverse group of friends each felt very differently about tanning. My Japanese friend believed that pale skin looked healthy. I remember her pointing to a very pale woman's legs in a magazine and saying how beautiful it was to see her veins. Being from cultures that valued tanning, it was the first time that I had ever met someone with that opinion. Caucasian features are internationally praised for their beauty; Caucasians will be in the media: magazines, television shows and so forth, of countries that are predominately populated by people of color.
My other friend--a Caucasian/third culture kid--would cover her face while she tanned in order to only tan her body. I always found it strange and I would verbalize that she looked crazy and that it looks better to be without a tan than to have a half-assed tan.
The most uncomfortable experience was when my other friend: a third culture Caucasian, who had lived in Asia, described how the Asian country where she lived looked down upon tan skin. The tanned were often the laborers and their menial jobs resulted in dark skin. This reminded me of slavery and I think the truth is what scared me the most.
Tan skin being fashionable was an accident. Coco Chanel was leisurely sailing on a yacht and she burned her skin. Being that she was so influential in the fashion industry, tan then became trendy. Tanning for those who are naturally pale, often occurs while at the beach or engaging in a leisurely activity.
On the other hand, tan people of color are often laborers. Their tans are sometimes frowned upon. I will often see Asians with umbrellas to shield the sun from their skin or covered entirely in fabric despite the sweltering heat. This is not to say that people of color cannot enjoy tanning, or engage in the same leisurely activities and even seek out a darker skin tone, but traditional colorism discourages darkness.
Tanning is dangerous but can often be an enjoyable experience. Some of my favorite memories are being at the beach and enjoying other outdoor activities.
Supposedly, the Tanning of America is