Colorism and Global Power

Benjamin Nuako, University of Ghana

 Skin bleaching has become a widespread phenomenon throughout all of Africa- the act of lightening one’s skin. A legacy that has been left behind by colonization on the minds on Africans, West Africans, and today more locally on Ghanaians. More disturbing than the skin bleaching is the somewhat open acceptance of the product, that is the result of nothing more than self hate. This self hate is perpetuated by colorism, which is the connotation of certain positive traits and attributes that are associated with lighter skin tones. These connotations are remnants of colonization which still has heavily effected the psyche of Africans everywhere, to the point of using skin creams to make one appear lighter.

Colorism is based on global system of white supremacy, despite the majority of the world population being myelinated individuals- demelinization is favored as one often holds more privilege in society. Colorism could be said to be a pigmented symbol of proximity to power. The power of Europeans has been so directly and closely entrenched to the lives of the majority of the world there has become a mental connotation of skin tone. This connotation is a reflection of the larger global connotations that exist for ethnic groups. Ethnic groups being divided into distinct columns of understanding based on global perception and how it relates to their control of global power. Africans-especially those with darker skin, holding the least amount of power in the global context are associated with the worst traits.

Considering whites were able to colonize most of the global south, it paints an interesting picture of the traits individuals would associate with them. The mental connotation of individuals to correlate power with white people still subsists. All stereotypes for any ethnic group of people is based upon whether or not the group is intelligent- all other stereotypes are off branches of this. Thus as you go down and examine the groups with the highest global positioning the stereotypes correlate with the most successful being the smartest people and all their relating attributes. While the lower ranked nations are considered less intelligent along with all of those associations.

In truth, the solution to combat skin bleaching and colorism is knowledge of self. It is the responsibility of Ghanaians to proliferate knowledge about the accomplishments of Ghanaians and more so Africans everywhere. We must first change our own connotations of ourselves before we can change the perception that the world may have us. And in order to change that connotation we must gain power on the world stage which would focus heavily on battling neo-colonialism and self-destructive foreign policy. Until we ourselves believe that whites are not inherently better, we won’t stop bleaching our skin to appear to be like them.