I recall my sister buying Ambi Fade Cream when we were in high school. She said it was for blemishes, I knew otherwise. She still hasn't shaken her esteem issues around her color and beauty.
This is not just an African-American issue, or a black issue, but a practice that is rampant across the globe. Lighter is beautiful in Western aesthetics.
When Sammy Sosa's photo revealed the dark brown Dominican's attempt to look like a ligher Latino, it opened the flood gates of the worldwide bleaching phenomenon that has never been excluded to women.
Then the recent photos of Vybz Cartel, murdering his complexion to make it appear an ashen, yellowish color akin to a zombie, deepens the conversation of serious issues within the African Diaspora around colorism. Back in the days, I guy would just marry a light-skinned girl or white woman. You know, do it the genetics way, but we all know that, that method is like rhythm birth control, sometime the timing is off so doesn't work all the time.
|Vybz, if you thought you got no action because of your skin then, you can cancel any hopes now.|
But why marry light, when cosmetic surgery can repair what you don't like? In 2002, boxer Percey Oblitei Commey lost a fight, plus got his ear torn almost off, his skin peeled and a gash on his cheek due to the incessant skin bleaching and plastic surgery to Europeanize his African features. He was laughed at by his country-folk, but lots of women and men there were rubbing toxic bleaching tonics on their arms and legs as they bawled in laughter.
|Photos taken from Village Voice article by N. Jamyla Chisholm.|
Africa is a haven for skin bleaches that can kill. One report speaks of a Nigerian couple that created a skin whitener that was primarily bleach, killing people in the UK. One report showed that one bleaching cream contained chemicals similar to Draino, a plumbing liquid that is used to unclog pipes.
According to a great skin bleaching site, an article on bleaching in Africa stated:
“The humidity, vectors, ignorance, way of life of people and skin bleaching which now starts at an early age have compounded the situation and Ghana is gradually moving towards an epidemic stage,” Dr Edmund N. Delle. Dr Delle, Dermatologist and founder of Rabito Group of Clinics said tampering with the skin, and skin disorders compromised beauty, and led to withdrawal from society.
However, I must mention, bleaching expands outside of the borders of Africa and its Diaspora. The products found in Africa are just a touch of what you see throughout Asia, America and Europe
Though this article highlighted men who bleach, still, more women practice skin lightening because it is often related to marriageability. (Click photo to hear an audio blog about Asian whitening)
What folk don't talk about is the pressure to be white is prominent in Asia. In ads throughout Japan, Korea, China and India, celebrities are used to promote how whiter skin leads to better partners and more success.
In India, Bollywood stars often promote skin bleaching cream, and companies in the US often take their skin bleaching ventures to the East, like Dove (Fair & Loveley) and Garnier. So much for Dove's beauty advertisements in the US that celebrate true, inner beauty and expose photo shopping.
|This Indian add promotes fair skin as beautiful.|
One blogger, Will Robinson describes this issue:
The infatuation with light skin can’t be blamed on the British. There has always been a connection between skin color and caste in India, though overt displays of the caste system are less pronounced nowadays. In India today, caste usually is manifested more as class. Most upper-caste/class Indians are lighter skinned, and most darker Indians are lower class (though being light-skinned doesn’t automatically make one upper-class/caste).
In Africa and the Caribbean it is heartbreaking.
If you ever see an African woman or Caribbean woman who has tons of make-up on, it might be due to the damage caused by lighteners. I saw that a lot in Africa.
Unfortunately, getting lighter has become steeped into daily rituals of women and men who seek attractiveness of the skin tone of their former colonizers. There is something about cultural Imperialism that holds firmer than military dominion any day.
There is a need for an affirmation, that black skin is in.