[pullquote]When black people accept the false belief that they are inferior to whites, they are buying into the very concept that is at the heart of the power machinery that was designed to keep blacks as the labouring class.[/pullquote]
A group of celebrated female creatives from Ghana consisting of an actress, a model, a singer and a tv presenter have united in a bid to promote self love. Well natural skintone love to be precise. If you love yourself you’ll love the skin you’re in right? Pauline Oduro, Ama K Abebrese, Nana Ama McBrown and Hamamat Montia are part of the Love Your Natural Skintone campaign:
To encourage women and men of colour everywhere that our natural skin colour we are born with is beautiful, whatever complexion we are. Dark, light, and all shades, we resist from the practice of using chemicals creams, lotions, pills and cosmetics to whiten our skin. There are many dangers associated with skin bleaching. To also encourage without judgement those who have bleached /toned their skin that they can stop if they wish to do so as its never too late to embrace our natural skin. ‘We love our natural skintone. –
Since the advent of Dencia and her Whitenicious brand, skin bleaching has been making headline news both internationally and within our local communities. I would never understand why it took one of our own (a black woman) being on the production side of things, for the flood gates for open conversations about the reasoning and the dangers to be flung open as if this hasn’t been going on for years. But I digress.
Truth is there is a psychology behind it. I for one have experimented with various hydroquinone-free skin toning creams in a desperate attempt to banish the scars from my teenage bout with acne. It wasn’t a mental scar. I love my caramel complexion and I wasn’t trying to be “whiter.” I was focussed on my spots which have now been added to the long list of imperfections that make me perfectly imperfect. Some people do seek out skin bleaching products to even out their tone after struggling with acne scars. However, most people who obsess about skin whitening are following a desire to be perceived as ‘whiter’.
The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products—the highest percentage in the world. Not far behind is Togo at 59 percent and Senegal at 27 percent. This trend is spreading fast. But why so? I once read about a Nigerian lady called Temi: “Bleaching just makes me feel special, like I am walking around in a spotlight,” said the 32-year-old. “I am not seeking to be totally white; I just want to look beautiful. I cannot stop using the lightening agents.”
So how did we get here? To this place where it is completely okay for a skin bleaching product called Whitenicious to exist and black women in their thousands are queuing up to make their purchase? This place where we have totally discarded ourselves, our relevance and our heritage and being black is a taboo? As narrated in the video shared below, “When black people accept the false belief that they are inferior to whites, they are buying into the very concept that is at the heart of the power machinery that was designed to keep blacks as the labouring class.”
A report from the Huffington Post UK indicates cultures around the world have, for generations, placed an emphasis on a pale complexion as being desirable; it is not entirely a Western civilization influence. This ancestral pattern, combined with modern prejudices are what has made skin whitening popular.
For individuals who participate in skin bleaching, they easily become addicted and it is a never-ending quest to what they perceive to be an ideal of beauty. Even when some can clearly see the dangers manifesting themselves, they still carry on. I encourage this open dialogue and I applaud those behind the initiative. I just hope it doesn’t become a “them” versus “us” situation. Social media commentary is already heading in that dangerously counter-productive direction. I hope the emphasis remains on the “love your natural skin tone” side of things rather than the “anti-bleaching” side as that in itself will automatically put many on the defensive while alienating others. Beauty is skin deep and for those who become obsessed with skin bleaching, the issues and far deeper than the colour of their skin.