Skin bleaching by Black people has reached near epidemic proportions. In the Caribbean, from Jamaica in the north to Trinidad & Tobago in the south, in Africa, and all across the United States today Black people, especially Black women, are trying to "become white." Cosmetic companies, nearly ALL owned by white people, are laughing all the way to the bank. For many of these women a light, yellowish pastel color is far more desirable than any shade of ebony.
So what Black and Brown women cannot change because of DNA and race, they are trying to do by the use of harmful and cancer-causing chemicals. And for what? To boast about being light-skinned? To demonstrate to who-knows the fact that they hate their color AND race? To be "white like them"? or to explain just how screwed up, mixed up, self-loathing and self-hating they are for being a member of the earth's original race? As Black people and the children of slaves with over 500 years of oppression by white people, it was they who told us that "blackness" was ugly, associated with evil, considered the manifestation of a sub-human species, and lacking in rudimentary intelligence.
And after the slave shackles were removed many still remained in mental slavery and identified with the oppressor rather than their own. Black former slaves and their children four generations removed still considered black kinky hair "bad hair" and straightish hair that looked like "Massa's own hair" "good hair." Lights skin in former slave nations became associated with privilege and superiority because he or she "looked like the Massa." "Blackness " was a cross to bear, where the most menial jobs were reserved for those unlucky enough to carry this "affliction." Back then young black girls played with white dolls enforcing the stereotype at an impressionable age that ONLY whiteness was good and pure.
In the Caribbean, Africa and beyond Black men prized light skinned "Black" women and would routinely cast aspersions on dark skinned women as being "black as tar" and "black as night." Black men in African nations, though not all, routinely consider the worst white woman better than the best Black one. He looked down on his own while elevating the other to near cult-worshipping status and for him it was a badge of honor to have a white woman walking by his side. For these self-hating Black men, fed the racial juice of white superiority in all things and raised during colonial times, the Black woman was worthless, while the white one made him stand out in the sea of Blackness as "the only one with a white woman." Talk about self-hate!
In the United States, Black people used the term "color struck" to refer to individuals who believed that lighter skin complexion and European features was representative of beauty and desirability. Indeed, such "color discrimination" is the end product of a process of self-hate that is often masked by subjective opinions of what constitutes attractiveness coupled and mixed with reactionary, unconscious, stereotyping.
For people who yearn to "look white" and who would bleach their natural pigmentation out in exchange for Caucasian paleness, while looking down on their darker brethren, the issue is not racism. That's because the textbook definition of racism is about discrimination against people based solely on racial categories. But they are guilty as hell of "colorism." I submit that colorism involves discrimination against dark-skinned Blacks on the basis of their skin color. Still, the hierarchy that drives colorism is the same as the one that governs racism; light complexion and Europeanized features are considered to be more valuable and attractive than dark skin and African features.
We have only to look to the ongoing problems and governmental attitudes in the Dominican Republic where light skinned Dominicans identify with Spain and reject their African, and therefore Black, heritage. And the distain and contempt with which they look at their dark-skinned brothers and sisters. Or for that matter look to Brazil, Peru and Argentina where there are still ongoing struggles to completely purge these countries of their Black historical heritage.
Or let us, if we have the courage to call a spade a spade, look at Puerto Ricans right here in the United States. It's as if there are no Black Puerto Ricans and their self-hate is so unconscious and ingrained that they identify more with white American oppression than with their African-American brethren. And it's this racial contradiction that is in part responsible for the retardation of the Puerto Rican independence struggles since Black, dark-skinned Puerto Ricans have a different political outlook and agenda than their light-skinned compatriots.
To be fair, pardon the pun, today's people who feel their dark skin is a social and economic fetter to their success, that attitude is the result of a number of factors outside of their control. In America's white, Eurocentricism has been at the core of its social and value system. Skin color is often the determining factor in securing employment, getting a good education, making it in entertainment and other things like quality housing, better healthcare, and access to better quality food. With these crippling pressures Black people feel that the only way to get a fighting, a shot at success and to get out from under an oppressive socio-economic system is to bleach their skin, become "lighter" and therefore more acceptable to white America. Its their way of "gaming" the white system.
Just look at President Barack Obama as to what a light-skinned Black man could achieve for guidance. And I don't mean this in a negative way. Look to Hollywood and so many other industries, activities and vocations and, while there are dark-skinned Blacks, you stand a far better chance at succeeding if only your skin was lighter.
History tells us that when Europeans colonized Asia, Africa and the Caribbean they imposed their cultural standards of beauty on the local indigenous populace. They also deliberately and forcefully moved to eradicate Black cultural standards and values from the lives of Black slaves in the Caribbean and the United States. Today, the European norm for beauty and attractiveness is ubiquitous and constantly reinforced in movies, magazines, television programs, online and elsewhere. Young children assimilate these conceptions at an early age, and they remain embedded in their psyches as they mature into adults.
And that's why they bleach their skins to become "whiter." All of these mediums and the mass media helped and conspired to integrate black self-hatred and to supplement and supplant Black standards of beauty, culture and value systems with those of white people, fundamentally alien to them and acting against Black self-interests.
So for generations Black people have internalized these concepts of beauty and value. Using hair straighteners, skin-lightening creams and lotions, Black men and women today, seek to "look white" sometimes unconsciously not realizing what they are doing. In the Caribbean starting around 1980 when waves of immigrants came to America, the injection of cable television in the region resulted in the promotion of the worst elements of American pop culture on a misguided and impressionable youth who gobbled up this culture including the yearning to be less Black.
As this "Cultural Imperialism" displaced traditional Caribbean values and broke down social barriers, old traditions and satisfaction with self were swept aside in exchange for skin bleaching creams, American values and behaviors. White color bias has grown stronger and is more pervasive even as the region has become more tech-savvy, informed and modern. In fact, the curious paradigm is that while many Caribbean cultural norms are still celebrated and embraced, the cross-contamination with United States social systems are so strong, that today, in an unrelated event, the region is seeing and suffering from the same kinds of diseases that bedevil and mirror American society.
All of this, believe it or not, has not only social consequences, but economic ones as well. Dean Leonard Baynes of Houston University examined the "Dark-Light Paradigm" of Black Americans and Latino colorism. He found that an entrenched color hierarchy among non-White ethnic groups operates to the detriment of dark- complexioned Blacks and Latinos. He bolstered his analysis with data that showed darker-skinned Blacks and Latinos tend to have smaller incomes, lower levels of educational attainment, and less prestigious employment positions than lighter-skinned Blacks and Latinos.
Moreover, colorism operates on a global scale. Today, there is a worldwide market for chemicals, creams and lotions that lighten skin tones. Unbelievably, Asia has the largest market for skin-whitening creams valued at over US$350 million (2009 figures). For example, in India and Pakistan, women are socialized to believe that a fair complexion equates to beauty and is the key to success in life, marriage, and work. The same was true in the Caribbean where that belief has been eroded over the years with a complicated relationship with blackness and gender.