Skin Bleaching Phenomenon In Jamaica




How might the concepts of, double consciousness, white supremacy, and anti-black racism enhance our understanding of the skin-bleaching phenomenon that currently plagues the Black Atlantic (Africa and the New World)?


White supremacy is the ideological narrative that the white population is superior to other races thus providing justification for the oppression and exploitation of other non-European individuals. Moreover, the importance is to guarantee continuous privilege, political power, and the economic wealth of white people. Double consciousness refers to the social construct of an internal feeling of “twoness” predominantly experienced by African Americans due to racial based oppression and inferiority in a white-dominated society. Additionally it depicts constantly viewing oneself through the perception of others and measuring one’s self worth based on a world that views the black community with contempt and hate. Anti-black racism involves beliefs, discrimination, prejudice, or stereotypical attitudes that is directed towards individuals of African descent and is deeply integrated in their histories and experiences in regards to colonization and slavery.  

These perspectives resulted in colorism in non-white communities; and hence skin bleaching. The idea is that lighter skin is a close estimation to whiteness, and thus such individuals have access to certain important privileges. This endorses skin bleaching and the constructed idea of whiteness being a superior race. Whiteness is equated to the following i.e. desirability, civilization, modernity, clean, luxurious, beauty, and femininity. Therefore, whiteness or lighter skinned is perceived as a symbol of social respectability and power. Individuals from the Black Atlantic believe that they can positively alter their life circumstances and obtain a certain level of influence by lightening their complexion.




What does the practice reveal about the populations from which those who participate in it are drawn? 


Communities with individuals who practice skin bleaching reveal a tendency of self-hate and low self-esteem. This phenomenon results from traumatizing experiences that occurred during slavery; with the misconstrued ideals being passed down from one generation to another. Their ancestors were consistently brainwashed and taught to hate themselves while elevating European values. Therefore, their descendants have developed internalized self-hate with skin bleaching being the primary evidence of their desire to westernize their physical attributes. Consequently, this depicts the deep-rooted psychological scars of colonization and slavery.

However, according to Christopher Charles, idolization of Eurocentric beauty ideals cannot be the predominant explanation of these populations’ mannerisms. The following are other reasons for the utilization of these chemical agents: to improve skin texture and complexion, impress lovers and peers, gain better economical and social standing, feel clean, and obtain Eurocentric features. This depicts the desire of these people in obtaining approval from others and the conceptualized standards of beauty depicting European oriented beauty ideals.

Charles Christopher reveals that majority of individuals who have indulged in skin bleaching were influenced by their peers. An example includes the conducted experiment whereby a 15 year old teenager admitted to bleaching her skin to fit in among her peers. Another individual stated that she did it to obtain better opportunities in terms of employment and social status. Other participants revealed harsh childhoods due to the presence of condescending parental figures, and overwhelming failures as an adult. Therefore, skin bleaching practices are perceived as coping mechanisms for various unfavorable life experiences.




Mainly, what does it say about their condition as postcolonial in your opinion? (Be sure to demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of what skin bleaching consists of, and of what each concept is about.)


Skin bleaching involves the cosmetic utilization of chemicals to lighten an individual’s complexion and it is predominately practiced in communities of color, including Africans. This practice depicts the inner turmoil experienced within black communities and is a reflection of self-hate, and low self-esteem. Moreover, it reveals the post-colonial trauma and mentalities, thus betraying their African backgrounds. It is fundamental to note that during the colonial period, the Europeans forced their cosmetic practices and ideals on Africans. There is also commodity racism that currently propagates the legacy of colonialism whereby Europeans continually assert their dominance in regards to whiteness. The objective is instilling in African people and individuals of African descent that their inferiority complex is due to their blackness. This was followed by penetrating the African market and dominating it by importing and marketing chemical agents with the transformational promise from a basic to modernized version. The tag line promotes whiteness as the ultimate form of existence, thus the need for bleaching agents.  Therefore the affected communities associate whiteness with beauty, femininity, civilization, and modernity. Blackness is associated with dirt, darkness and inferiority. Consequently, it is evident that Africa and the New world are still negatively impacted by colonization in regards to self worth and thus the need to alter one’s appearance to suit the Eurocentric standards of beauty.

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