Today the Guardian has published another timely article
about the tragedy of skin lightening, and the hypocrisy of multinationals
that espouse natural beauty and then sell skin whitening creams to Asian and
Once again the vast majority of responses on the Guardian website are dismissive and/or ignorant of the scale, depth and historical context to this phenomenon.
The global phenomena of skin lightening-darker skinned people wanting to be lighter- has its roots in slavery, a legacy that is very much with us today. It is no surprise to me that many of the dismissive comments, when writers such as Layla Sayeed, and Sunny Hundal try and debate the issue, are met with the argument, ‘Well, it is no different to white people wanting a tan’.
They couldn’t be further from the truth. What they elude in their ignorance is two fold: first, globally, being white bestows a privilege that is so profound and so prevailing, that the recipients-white people-take this unprecedented privilege for granted.
That privilege is a global economic order, homed in, and finally tuned since slavery that by and large sees an economically , politically and culturally powerful white world juxtaposed against a resource rich, yet poor Black world; Secondly, with that wealth, power, and global reach the wealthier world easily dictate to consumers what is beautiful, what is successful, what we should aspire to be like. TV, magazines, and now the webs remind us on a daily basis less we forget.
Skin lightening is just one of many manifestation of this global inferiority complex. Hair straightening, nose narrowing, and in worse cases, a hatred of the self. All this and more are in some way a legacy of our slave and colonial past.
Our goal must be to achieve greater economic and political power, whilst asserting a proud cultural heritage that is us wherever we are.
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