The Associated Press' highlighting of skin bleaching in Jamaica is both sad and eye opening, and while I'm certain many would think that the lightening of skin is a fixation of past generations, NewsOne shows that the beauty exercise in self-hatred is unfortunately alive and well.
Evidenced with a 23-year-old Mikeisha Simpson (pictured below), who is said to slaver white cream all over her body, don a track suit and then intermittently dodge the hot island sun, skin bleaching is seen as a modern improvement much like Botox:
"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.
I mean, she's young and deeply misguided, but how deep can it be?
The article seems to answer my question with a nightmarish scenario of a Mother who admits to bleaching her baby, and then storms out of her dermatologist's office once he advises her not to:
"I know of one woman who started to bleach her baby. She got very annoyed with me when I told her to stop immediately, and she left my office. I often wonder what became of that baby," said Neil Persadsingh."
While attempting to lighten one's color screams of poor self-esteem, the dermatologist's concerns, for example, are more than skin deep. In order to effectively stop melanin (responsible for skin's color) production in one's skin, toxic chemicals, such as hydroquinone and mercury, are often key ingredients.
According to the AP,
"...Hydroquinone, has long been linked to a disfiguring condition called 'ochronosis' that causes a splotchy darkening of the skin. Doctors say abuse of bleaching lotions has also left a web of stretch marks across some Jamaicans' faces."
As for the harmful effects of mercury, which is banned in the European Union and the United States:
"The symptoms of mercury poisoning include emotional disturbances, unsteadiness, inflammation of the mouth and gums, general fatigue, memory loss, forgetfulness and headaches. It may also lead to kidney damage. Excess mercury in the system has been known to cause kidney problems (membranous nephropathy)," according to WhiterSkin.info.
The harmful ingredients of skin lighteners have done little to stop its use. Skin bleaching is also rife throughout Africa, where Jamaicans are said to get their knockoff skin-bleaching products.
According to PubMed, a study in Senegal (woman pictured from Senegal above) revealed that 72.5 percent of women used skin bleaching products, while 77.6 percent of working women also used the products. Similar studies were said to also be conducted in Mali and Togo, and you guessed it, the unfortunate findings were similar.
While the AP's article focuses on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, skin bleaching is a worldwide phenomenon that can be found in practically any place that has been colonized by Europeans.
I'll never forget the experience I had about two years ago, when I worked with an Indian woman. "Shakti," I'll call her, told me about the trouble she was having conceiving. Five long years had passed for her, and she still couldn't have a baby.
So you can imagine my jubilation once Shakti told me she was pregnant.
I mean, her and her husband had exhausted every fertility treatment known to man. To see her glowingly with child really warmed my heart. Unfortunately, this feeling would be fleeting.
Me: "How's your pregancy going? You look beautiful!"
Shakti: "Good. But I've been having these strange dreams."
Me: "What are they about?"
Shakti: "I keep dreaming that I am holding an American baby. How silly of me, though, what with my husband and I being so dark ... that would never happen."
Me: [Perplexed] "What do you mean by an American baby?"
Shakti: "You know, a blond, blue-eyed white baby. Too bad that will never happen -- only in my dreams...."
I was horrified and embarrassed for her and practically pushed her out before my white colleague, who I shared my office with, returned.
Just a few months ago, she was bemoaning her misfortune that God hadn't blessed her with a child. She gets her gift, and all she can do is dream about a white baby?
BlackVoices.com covered the booming Indian skin-bleaching industry about two years ago and even revealed Vaseline's skin-lightening app being marketed in India a few months later.
And of course, America is just as obsessed with all things light and white -- remember the '90s, when light-skinned crooners Al B. Sure and El Debarge were all the rage? But there is more to this problem than confused individuals who weren't told they were pretty enough when they were children:
"If we really want to control the spread of the skin-bleaching virus, we first have to admit that there's an epidemic of color prejudice in our society," said Carolyn Cooper, a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, writing in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper."
In other words, whether you are pointing to the age-old caste system in India, which puts the lighter citizens on top, granting them access to the most resources and power, or the 300-plus transatlantic slave trade that systematically made all things white both right and powerful -- effecting the citizens of Africa, the United States, South America and the Caribbean -- much of the world has consistently been force fed the idea that whites are the chosen race who receive the top jobs, biggest homes and most luxurious lifestyles.
And I don't care if you won't admit it now, but most would have given their next five Now-A-Laters to have been in the popular crowd in grade school.
That is why I absolutely love having Michelle Obama as First Lady. As an educated dark-skinned black woman going to schools across the country, in Haiti or in the villages of Ghana, she shows black girls everywhere that they can hold this post too. That they can attend the top universities too. That they are capable and beautiful too.
In spite of what the commercials, videos and movies are saying.
Someone needs to tell all of our children that they are beautiful -- really and truly -- and God took his precious time and rejoiced when He made them.
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