Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fair/Light Skin and Beauty II

Somewhere in early January 2010 I wrote a post about skin color and beauty. 

In that post I discussed the emphasis by many on being fair/light to emulate a white vision/version of beauty.

This morning I read the following article in The New Age newspaper that covers some of the same contrived socio-political ground. According to the article Jamaican women, particularly poor women, use harmful skin lighteners (bleachers) as "a ticket to a better life."

The lighter your skin the more desirable you are:
Mikeisha Simpson covers her body in greasy white cream and bundles up in a track suit to avoid the fierce sun of her native Jamaica, but she's not worried about skin cancer.

The 23-year-old resident of a Kingston ghetto hopes to transform her dark complexion to a cafe-au-lait-color common among Jamaica's elite and favored by many men in her neighborhood. She believes a fairer skin could be her ticket to a better life. So she spends her meager savings on cheap black-market concoctions that promise to lighten her pigment.

Simpson and her friends ultimately shrug off public health campaigns and reggae hits blasting the reckless practice.

"I hear the people that say bleaching is bad, but I'll still do it. I won't stop 'cause I like it and I know how to do it safe," said Simpson, her young daughter bouncing on her hip.

People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the gritty slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions.
Skin color prejudice among so called 'non-whites' (still hate being a 'non') is still very prevalent just about everywhere.  Even now, 16 years into apartheid, relationships/marriages are often decided on skin color (the lighter the better).

The need to emulate whiteness in skin color and hair color/texture is astounding.  Just yesterday I was reading about a black artist who was talking about her proud African upbringing and in the accompanying picture she was wearing a blond wig and blue contacts.

What kind of pride is that?

Have I missed something?  Is it OK now to just accept the white beauty myths and pile them on-top of all the other racist baggage that comes from our past and act like we have overcome?

Surely there is still a need to think critically about our liberation.


If you are still thinking about lightening your skin, or dealing with "hyper-pigmentation", you may want to check out this self-help remedy.

My brain is fried and I need to take a break from ranting here :)

And we are not free.



Erica said...

A black artist who talks about how proud she is to be a black woman while wearing blond weave/wig and blue contacts? Bullshit! You haven't missed a thing love. Same old addage, same old story, same bullshit!!

As a black woman, I see this time and time again. The women who does this fail to realize that no matter how they try and disguise their's the first thing that's noticed. Always have and always will be.

You can never run away from who or what you are. That's why it's so important to teach our young black girls that academics is imperative, but being aware of their black consciousness is as equally important!

Makes my damn head hurt too Ridi!

and No, WE'RE NOT FREE!!!!

Ridwan said...

Hey there Erica!

Now why did I know you would be fired up by this post? :)

Thank you kindly for your words and critique.

I absolutely hear you. Passing did not work then and it can't work now - you called it right.

A few months ago there was a controversy over a magazine that lightened the skin of Beyonce on their cover.


What are we telling our kids when they are sold these kinds of images?

DuBois talked about "double consciousness" and the "color line" and I am wondering just how much travel have we really achieved.

Underneath my repulsion for these kinds of manipulations is a stronger repulsion for the politics of selling-out. The kind where blackness is hardly distinguishable from the oppressive whiteness in its thinking and rationalization.

Thank you for having a sore head too!

I'll bring you a couple of Tylenol and some Tom Yum soup.

Be safe up there. :)


Erica said...

You and Mita would suffice!!

Of course you know I wouldn't let a post like that just dewll and not comment on it. Truth be told, it's getting rather tiresome.

But still burns me up when I hear such things. I've come to the conclusion that it's not going to get any better.


eccentricyoruba said...

Just yesterday I was reading about a black artist who was talking about her proud African upbringing and in the accompanying picture she was wearing a blond wig and blue contacts.

What kind of pride is that?

I don't understand the logic either. I think one thing about us as Africans is that we think we're unaffected by Western media and racial thought because of our geographical location. Yet this is not the case, we're not free.

Ridwan said...

Hello Erica:

I am going to put Mita on a diet when I get back to Kimberley.

I have pictures now. The vet said that it may be neutering and others disagree.

Either way. He is big boned :)

I hear you on being tired of all the posturing. You are not alone.

Teach your daughters to resist huh?

Peace to you,

Ridwan said...

Hi eccentricyoruba!

It is always a great pleasure to hear from you. I trust you are well.

Thanks for your comment.

You are absolutely right. We are so affected by media and stereotypes.

Fanon called it right in the late 50s.

We live in the shadow of the mask and think we are free.

Be well and holla when you can.

Peace to you,

pserean said...

just some...err...light relief. Apt advice too.
*stay outta the sun*

Ridwan said...

Salaams pserean!

I am cracking up. "Always be the fairest" ... Snow White called it too huh?

What a crazy patriarchal and racist world we live in ...

Thanks for the lekker laugh.

I trust you are well this rainy (here in Pretoria) night (no sun till who knows).

Peace to you

Watershedd said...

Interesting and sad post. So much for black pride.

I take the issue of colour one step further. Many people who are of mixed European and indigenous/black heritage are born with fairer skin and eyes. They fall between the cracks, neither black nor white. This is the sort of thing recounted by Bakchos at Colour should be irrelevant. The content of the heart and our daily actions are all that truly matter.

Ridwan said...

Watershed thanks kindly for your comment.

"Colour should be irrelevant" - you are absolutely right.

But it is not and that is what is so sad about this disfigured reality.

Peace to you,

Pstonie said...

Just yesterday I was reading about how there's an undercurrent in the emerging Chinese culture that being lighter skinned was sought after because it meant you weren't getting a suntan while labouring in the fields.

Meanwhile "whites" are looking to get suntanned.

We are not free, but we do all appear to be lost.

Skin Care said...

"The perception of beauty is a moral test."
-Henry David Thoreau

It's almost unimaginable how decades - nay, centuries - after the era of colonialism and false white propaganda, people still adhere to the saying "lighter is beautiful," when beauty is inherent in all colors and races.