Skin Bleaching In Our Community

Jeronn Danso, IUP 

Bleaching, in regards to skin, is the transitioning of ones’ current skin tone to that of a lighter skin pigment.  This process is practiced across various cultures, where it is viewed as an essential component in their own self-built values. This value emphasizes that having a darker complexion is something that is deemed undesirable.  There are many social issues that put those with darker skin at a disadvantage to those that are lighter due to the colorist ideals that many cultures possess.  In a sense bleaching is looked at as a cleanse where darkness is washed away, revealing a more “desirable” you.

Many people are prompted to practice skin-bleaching due to colorism within their own racial groups,  causing many people to feel as if they’re the out-group, when everyone should essentially feel like an equal amongst their own kind.  Skin bleaching goes hand-in-hand with peer pressure and the need to reassure yourself that you matter.  Media has a huge role in the skin bleaching epidemic, where lighter skin and finer features are consistently favored.  With the constant showcasing of successful light skin people and the neglect of coverage for people of darker skin shows the imbalance of representation.  The impact that that has on people in today’s society, especially children, has long lasting affects both mentally and emotionally.

As someone who has dark skin, I know firsthand how it is for someone of your own race to put you down for having the skin that you’re born with, which reflects back to the whole idea of colorism.  Being told that your skin is “disgusting” or “dirty” messes with you in way where you don’t feel wanted anymore.  As a child hearing those words frequently made me hate the skin that I was born with and ultimately made me take the steps towards bleaching my skin.  The desire to feel as if I mattered was a mission that I sought out by engaging in research on techniques to “cleanse” and lighten myself.  Doing the research, finding out the costs, and learning of the extensive procedures to accomplish this process was a huge turnoff.  It was partly due to me being lazy and broke, but it also made me realize how dumb I looked, by seeking out a solution to a “problem” that I don’t even have with myself.

Skin bleaching is an evolving practice that is gaining participants on a daily basis.  The trend stems from a bad mindset that’s rooted from years of discrimination and hatred.  The whole idea of modifying your body just to please others is a way of life that no one should be living.  It’s sad to say that this epidemic will never go away due to the fact that you can’t eradicate someone’s mentality.  In reality, it is almost impossible to get rid of a whole ideal that people hold of others.  Uplifting others is essential to growing as a whole, we may not reach a total consensus on diminishing colorism but it’s always worth a try.

The popularity of skin bleaching stems from the idea of fitting the European standard of beauty, that is constantly pushed on today’s society by way of the media.  This mindset has been placed within most predominately black societies ever since the days of European colonization.  There was an emphasis in those times that if you were of a lighter pigment you were placed higher on the “totem pole” compared to those with darker complexions.  Which goes hand in hand with slavery and the distinction of the “house” and “field” slave.  It was thought that the slaves who more closely resembled their slave master got treated better and were higher up than the ones on the field.  Even though that isn’t exactly true people thought and still think that that’s how it was.

A huge global platform for skin bleaching is Jamaica, due to constant media coverage of the epidemic in the country.  Jamaica is not the only country where skin bleaching is practiced by a large amount of people but it is the main country that has numerous media coverage on skin bleaching.  With a few public figures publicized all over media such as Vybz Kartel and Alkaline it gives us a glimpse of skin bleaching within the country.  These idols in a way made bleaching a hot topic that is linked to Jamaica.  Bleaching isn’t a widespread ideal within the country but it is a huge practice that takes places within the country. 

Many skin bleaching documentaries that I have watched in regards to Jamaica emphasize the belief that the lighter you are, the better off you’re going to be.  This goes back to the subject of European colonization and the Europeans having the better living standards and authority.  Some Jamaicans believe that acquiring “European traits” would be an overall advantage in their society.  The cheapest way to acquire this goal is bleach.  Even though bleaching products is expensive in the country it still costs way less than going through surgical processes.  In reality you can’t stop anyone from doing what he or she want with their own skin, but it’s important to let anyone know that they’re just fine in their own skin.