Skin Bleaching & Colorism – A Global Dirty Little Secret

sammy sosaAfter Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” brought greater mainstream familiarity with the fact that the issues of black beauty went a lot deeper for many people of color than just esthetics, now Sammy Sosa‘s recent photos has brought out the dirty little secret of skin bleaching/colorism amongst people of color for mainstream consumption & debate. The passing of Michael Jackson revisited the issue of skin bleaching, but was brushed away as alien to Michael Jackson’s obsession with plastic surgery & desire to be White, or vitiligo, for those who didn’t want to believe that he was suffering from the mental anguish that colorism had brought to his life & physical destruction.

Sammy Sosa’s story has knocked the issue of skin bleaching out of the ballpark erupting into global debates & recognition of documentaries bringing the issue of skin bleaching & colorism to the forefront of mainstream topics. Years of African colonization along with the physical & mental enslavement of Africans throughout the Diaspora brought about the idea that lighter was better in the minds of African descendants because it brought one favor in the fact that it meant one was mixed with the genetics of the master, the superior race- the White race. This beauty ideal of colonizers & slave masters became cemented throughout the continent & carried on thru African descendants around the world as a badge of honor for some & a dirty little secret for others centuries after emancipation & continues to plague people of color even today. There have been many books, films & discussions on the topic in the past, but the global interest in Sammy Sosa’s rise & fall as an international alpha man type of hero struggling with this issue has now forced the world to face itself & the mental destruction of its people going as far as dying to achieve the esthetic of a European or the colonizer & slave master’s standard of what is deemed as universally beautiful.

Take a look at the bustling film industry in Africa (Ghana, Nigeria & South Africa in particular) & you will see many of its lead characters are lighter skin Africans & this remains true for most of the world when dealing with showcasing a black standard of beauty, wealth & talent whether it’s in film, fashion, or everyday business. This issue of colorism effects every continent where lighter pigmentation is the standard form of beauty, wealth & privilege widely known amongst people of color all over the world, but often overlooked or swept under the rug as a source of embarrassment complicit in self discrimination based on one’s pigmentation. I have personally witnessed this amongst Africans, Latinos, Black Americans, Indians, Arabs and even Italians- where darker hue Italians from the south are discriminated against for their close proximity to Africa or as descendants of Italians mixing with Africans. Throughout the world, Africa & its darkest of hue has always brought a sense of fear, inferiority and sometimes a warped fetish & fantasy of the ultimate in animalistic instincts, behavior & temptation, so the lightening of the hue decreases the fear & brings more acceptability & softness in beauty & humanness in accordance with colonial standards. This European standard is not only an issue for African descendants, but also a dirty little secret amongst people of non-African decent all over the world who were also colonized or economically globalized .

The issue of colorism has been a topic of discussion in Black communities in America for centuries, from Alex Haley’s “Queen”, Spike Lee’s “School Daze” , Toni Morrison “The Bluest Eye”, Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Wedding (dealing with colorism & wealth in martha’s vineyard), Tyra Bank’s episodes on her talk show, and even the election of President Barack Obama; now the issue of skin bleaching combined with colorism & racism has become a global topic of discussion continuing to rear its ugly head in its divisionism & destruction of global citizens.

I have seen so many African women bleaching their skin for all of my life & it has always been a socially acceptable thing because most African societies accept the idea that lighter is better while pumping their fists for African pride. Ironically if you look at Black American history you can see that those who pumped their fists the hardest for Black pride were often of a lighter shade of Black or married White: Malcolm X, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Mohammed Ali & even the notorious Reverend Wright amongst others. I will never forget the day I realized that telling a little white girl from the upper east side of manhattan that I was babysitting for while in elementary school, that Michael Jackson was Black was as traumatizing to her as being told there was no Santa Clause. She cried & cried & told me that I was lying . I was beyond shocked by her reaction, but was taught a lesson on the negative perception of Blackness even in the eyes of the children of the so called liberal Whites in America.

My aunt recently told me an ironically funny yet sad story stemming from colorism & societal perceptions. She told me that when she was in Africa she saw Indians in Africa as being so beautiful because to Africans they associated Indians as white because of their hair & certain European features, but when she got to America she no longer found them to be so beautiful because she saw they were just like her & not white. All I could think was wow-really? I was not surprised because I grew up in this mentality, but for some reason I always loved my darkness which brought me my shine particularly amongst my global encounters – you know, the whole “wow you are so EXOTIC” thing-LOL! I was once told by my Senegalese friend, who was born & raised in Europe & works in the beauty industry, that I was the “new ideal” with my dark skin & European features- HUH? I happen to have a smallish button type of nose, oval shaped eyes &  full lips that are proportional to my face -all of which are natural native features of my 100% Ghanaian family, but I guess now it is considered European features or non-stereotypically Black/African & in some circles “the new ideal”-SMH. Part of the reason my aunt no longer found Indians to be so beautiful when she saw them in America was because in Africa many of them had the wealth & represented a certain class & perception while in America they are lumped in the same minority status as she is, within a new definition of wealth, class & colorism in America!

Esthetic globalization + Colorism + racism = Global Confusion + Global Madness!

Colorism is a form of discrimination in which human beings are accorded differing social and treatment based on skin color. The preference often gets translated into economic status because of opportunities for work. Colorism can be found across the world. The term is generally used for the phenomenon of people discriminating within their own ethnic groups. The term colorism usually refers to when lighter skin tones are preferred and darker skin is considered less desirable or vice versa. In the United States, the phenomenon also occurs in other populations, such as among Chicanos and other Latinos and Indian immigrants. While colorism still exists in the U.S., it has diminished since the Civil Rights Movement. The name pigmentocracy is given to a group-based social hierarchy based largely on colorism. Also labeled as colorism.Colorism in the United States is a practice that began in times of slavery due to white slave owner’s beliefs that any person black (African) or associated with blackness, was inferior or lowly. Common practices of the time were to allow the slaves with the lighter complexion (more commonly the offspring of the slave masters and their slaves) to engage in less strenuous usually domesticated duties, while the darker, more African looking slaves participated in hard labor, which was more than likely outdoors. The “brown paper bag test” was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were “too dark.” That is, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than a paper lunch bag, in order to maintain a perception of standards. Spike Lee’s film School Daze satirized this practice at historically black colleges and universities. The “brown paper bag test” form of colorism is also believed to have been used in the application process to the prestigious Historically Black College Howard University. The University once required students to submit a photograph of themselves, most likely to ensure that the majority of the Universities students were of lighter complexion. Along with the “Paper Bag Test,” guidelines for acceptance among the lighter ranks included the “comb test”, which tested the coarseness of one’s hair, and the “flashlight test,” which tested a person’s profile, to make sure their features measured up, or were close enough to those of the Caucasian race. Colorism is prevalent in the job application process as well, research shows that a light skinned African American male with a bachelors degree and mediocre experience is more likely to be hired for a typical job than a dark skinned man with a Masters in Business Administration and past experience in the field…..” SOURCE

A study released today draws a connection between political partisanship and the skin tone of political candidates. Researchers from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago suggest people believe that a lighter skin tone is more representative of a candidate with whom they are politically aligned than a politician with a darker complexion.” READ MORE

BLACK BRAZIL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj8lP-yg04U


Bleach, Nip, Tuck: The White Beauty Myth ep1 1/4 by NzingahMorena

Dove Hypocrisy: I guess the campaign for Real beauty in India according to the same company that owns the Dove brand is to be White

No matter your celebrity the racism that carries into colorism is alive & well –Let’s see if FIFA will live up to what they say- but then again the next world cup is in South Africa- a country which has had a long & very recent history of Apartheid/colorism/racism –so we’ll see how truly far we have come as human beings!

I don’t know how true this video is because -some of the celebs. are obvious but others not so sure it isn’t just make –up & air brushing which is far from skin bleaching.

UPDATE ON THE GLOBAL MADNESS BY Vybz Kartel
The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice? Well not for reggae artist Vybz Kartel who is endorsing his own brand of skin lightening cake soap. Kartel justifies his change in appearance by comparing bleaching his skin to white people tanning…” READ MORE

Awaiting trial on a charge of conspiracy to murder is not generally a good time to launch a new beauty product. But when the products in question are skin-whiteners, you’re probably used to the negative publicity. Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel is launching his own range of men’s cosmetics this month, which includes a variety of ‘skin-brightening’ items…READ MORE

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30 Comments

  • She-La

    November 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    damn this is comprehensive. appreciate the clips from round the world. did not realize that hot reggae song was about that, dem a bleach. i just shook my ass to it. now it’s hotter.

    thanks for giving me more material to peruse as i avoid family interaction this thanksgiving.

  • She-La

    November 24, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    also just dig that this is not just on sammy sosa cuz i’ve been feeling like he’s been getting heat for being a typical self-hating black latin for something so many people around the world do. of course his case is extra cuz he did it so fast and looks so bleh.

  • Joe

    May 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    “I happen to have a smallish button type of nose, oval shaped eyes & full lips that are proportional to my face -all of which are natural native features of my 100% Ghanaian family, but I guess now it is considered European features or non-stereotypically Black/African & in some circles ‘the new ideal.'” Isn’t this just a backdoor way of gloriying your own European features?

  • GlobalFusionist

    May 15, 2011 at 2:52 am

    @JOE-no it is a straight forward way of showcasing the the ignorance of people who fail to realize that Africans are not stereotypically monolithic. I guess I am overtly glorifying my 100% African features. Africa is the world & the world is Africa…

  • Colly A. Burke

    July 8, 2011 at 1:13 am

    Sorry, but any black person who wants to be white does not know themselves and does not belong in the black race. I am glad to be black and would not change my skin color for all the money in the world. First, I hate seeing blue veins on people.

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