Skin Bleaching: a suicide pill from Slavery and Colonialism

Publié le par hort

Skin Bleaching


Recently, a Yoruba Nigerian couple Yinka and Michael Oluyemi were fined £92,000 in an inner crown court for knowingly selling harmful and or banned products to the thousands of Africans customers in South London. who bought their products. To add insult to injury,-they are also committed Christians!. In response to this incident, Sherry Dixon -Editor of the Pride was interviewed on BBC London news on Thursday 04/01/07. It would have been better if she did not appear at all! Because, she handled the subject in such very matter of fact/trivial way. She seemed to hint- bleaching of the skin is the act of a few misguided Africans (Black people). She squandered the opportunity to link this practice with psychological slavery and an outcome or ritual associated with the Post traumatic slave/colonial syndrome. It is a destructive ritual practiced by peoples with large volumes of melanin in their blood stream. This practice has the potential to cause skins damage, increased skin cancer figure and predispose people to liver and kidney failure. Banning creams might interfere with the supply side of the lucrative business but, unless the psychological repair does not happen, this very destructive practice will continue to plague the African communities.

The other amazing thing to note is this, the NEW NATION Monday 05th January edition page 2 printed the news item-”Skin Bleaching pair fined”. However, on page 38 of the same edition there is an advertisement which reads-” The Grace Line Body, new. Natural skylan skin lightening cream, that removes all the dark patches, for example eye, face, neck area and all over the body to give you “clear complexion” Cheques and postal can be sent to a Dorset address. Now, is the New Nation so desperate that, it would contradict it’s own itself. What message is it actually sending out to it readers? That, it is okay to be used as a means to put people in contact with sellers of products, which might banned or dangerous to people’s health. Is this a sick joke or what. Is this responsible journalism?


When the word African is used-The writer is referring to peoples from the peoples from the Caribbean, Continental Africa, USA, UK and mainland Europe. The peoples who normally refer to themselves as “black people”. As if-black is an ethnicity! The practice of lightening is also widespread in Asia as, the southerners try to get just as pale as the northerners in India. The writer will not be discussing the Asians in this essay. Many of my better informed friends always ask, why do you think skin lightening use is on the increase? The answers to that question is quite complicated and varied and sometimes, it can get very emotive, especially if people are involved in the practice When I use the term pigmentocracy, it means rule by a particular shade or tone of complexion. The object of this essay is to throw up some ideas for a bigger debate /discussion sometimes.


The wide spread use of bleaching cream is not only used by Africans but, by most people who have large pools of melanin. Nevertheless, in this essay, the writer would be concentrating on the African communities. The other thing is this, the use of bleaching cream cannot be discussed in isolation from parenting practice, history, the impact of Europe/African relationships or without mentioning the expansion within the cosmetic capitalist industries. As far back 1930-there were 232 different brands of bleaching cream on the market in the USA at the height of the depression years. In the case of the Mainland Africa-the cosmetic capitalists are following a path/mind already prepared for” whitening”. In the post slave/neo societies- people continue to practice colour discrimination or pigmentocracy- a word coined by Marita Golden (2004). Most of come from such societies move from destructive phase from poor parenting- to mis-education then fighting amongst each other for the few jobs.

It is also not surprising, the cosmetic capitalist has decided to exploit the psychologically damaged for profit maximisation. The whitening industry is a lucrative and expanding industry. L’Oreal, Max Factor, Helena Rubenstien, Estee Laudee and Maybelline involved in the industry face stiff competition amongst themselves, which forces each to head hunt the rich and famous to front their products. These advertising contracts are worth millions for the lucky model/actress/singer or idle rich. Off course-the word bleaching is not used openly . Nowadays-it is “anti-aging “ a euphemism for bleaching cream. If you check the labels for the declared ingredients-you might find highly toxic chemicals like hydroquinone, kojic acid, and sodium hydroxide- all with the potential to cause diseases like liver, skin and kidney cancer. Some of the cheaper brands may also have up to 3% mercury-can poison the brain.


In the year 1807, the Slave “Trade” was abolished by the British for their own capitalistic and industrial developmental reasons. After which, many planters and master had to use their own initiative to replace old or dead slaves. The answer; miscegenation. Within the 10 years of the abolition, a new race of lighter skinned children were being born through rape and or consensual sex. These children were often sold and they even fetched higher prices. So people like Frederick Douglas and Booker T Washington did not even know their fathers-they were sold along with their mothers. Without a birth certificate identifying the father and mother by names, these mix race children could not even claim their inheritance. For many female slaves-this miscegenation took on religious status as, they wholeheartedly believed and or linked prosperity, a good quality of life, wellbeing, respectability with lighter skin. European American fathers like Thomas Jefferson who fathered countless children with his female slaves and, who went to become one of the writers of the US Constitution, also sold of his mix race children, whenever he was over stretched financially.

What started of as a remedy for a labour problem on the parts of the planters in the Caribbean and the Americas, became an end for the female slaves. I mention female slaves but, sex between mistress and male slaves were always treated as rape and those children were sold off even faster, as their husbands did not want to get too close or nurture these “slave children” less, they build a relationship with them. On the other hand, female slaves cherished these children who, they viewed as a means of getting respect, better treatment, a chance to work in the “Big house, eat better food and have probably better accommodation. So began the phenomenon of aspiring to have lighter skin. There was no bleaching cream concocted in the laboratory just yet so, sexual intercourse with a European master or overseer had to do to have similar outcome., without posing a health hazard except for possible catching venereal disease. No condoms around then.

Following miscegenation= genetic engineering, pigmentocracy and colour- sightedness/ consciousness, which is the oppose of colour blindness. What also started seeping into the vocabulary of the neo/post slave societies were words and phrases eg Don’t go in the sun-if you want to find a good husband”, why don’t you add a little milk to your coffee”, he/she is so black-think about the colour of your children”, you cannot even see him or her in the night”. Also, black and ugly were being used in the same line or at least, close to each other. The writers of the dictionary also did their bit by associating the colour black with negatives eg Black market, black sheep, blackball-to exclude someone from a group. Black mass, Black spots, where accidents frequently happens. Black spots on the face, black magic, blackmail .Golden M(2004)

From forced miscegenation/social engineering to choosing miscegenation as a means of avoiding colour discriminations more acceptable. The capitalists jumped on the women’s magazines as a means of capturing the imagination of the women. Off course- using only Europeans models with the “Nordic” look. Nevertheless, many deeply hued women supported this universal concept of beauty by buying and aspiring to “to be like them” with the help of dangerous chemicals. The magazines captured and colonised their imaginations, helped along by peer pressure and poor parenting. Poor parenting in the homes ,where parents avoid the subject of colour discrimination or maintain the ideas by using terms like-black and ugly in the sentence or calling a child stupid because he well hued and or chastising children for playing in the sun are damaging to a small child’s self- perception and

Clark R and Clark M (1958) have already studied young children under 5 and their anti colour attitudes. They carried out the Blond Doll Experiment. During this experiment, children were given European and African dolls- What Clark found was quite revealing in that, ,he found 75% of 3 year olds were conscious of the difference between white and colour. By age 7-the percentage rose to 100%. The disturbing thing in this study is this, the majority of African-American children between the ages of 3-7 totally rejected the African dolls. In addition-another survey carried in NY, USA amongst African American children between the ages of 5-18 found more alarming figures. When asked the question-What did your parents tell you about being black and, when did your parents tell you about being black? 2 children found out through their own self-looking in the mirror. Only parent felt confident enough to tell the child-” As a black person, we originally came from Africa-our mother country(Continent)” Harrison-Ross P/ Wyden P (1973). Also found in Wilson AM (1978) book-The Developmental Psychology of the African/Black Child.


The role of parenting African children in either the Core Capitalist countries like Europe mainland. UK.USA and Canada is just as difficult as parenting children in the peripheral capitalist countries like the Caribbean and Africa. Often parents in the neo colonial societies posing as “democratic societies” are actually pigmentocratic societies producing large colonies of self haters, self mutilators who have no confidence in their African heritages so practices such as straightening hair. Bleaching cream, forgetting and or rejecting the ancestors for the Eurocentric looking Jesus. WoodsonC.G (1937) would also argue that, the “mis-education system reinforces and or prepares the minds for a life of dependence on various aspects of Pan-Europeanism. Mis education whether it is faith-based or secular curriculum is actually an irrelevant curriculum, which is further maintained by parents at home who refuse to provide an alternative relevant curriculum or invest in their child’s education, rather than continuously building churches and giving their money to “GOD.

If we in the Africans communities continue to ignore the importance of a relevant curriculum for the generation of children, which has to be Afrocentric in it’s foundation-we are ignoring re-construction. We will be facing destruction in the face. If we fail to invest and take full control of schools, we are failing in our parenting duties and preparing the next generation of psychologically abused or damaged children who will continue self-hating, self mutilating, self harming and self destructing at their own hands. Do not expect the European structures and their systems to liberate us or suddenly make us love our selves. Capitalism and other Europeans systems including their curricula and the Eurocentric Jesus are benefit them not our diverse communities. It is as Cress-Welsing explained in her book,” it is not by accident that, the majority of Africans worldwide unquestionably support Eurocentrity either partially or wholly. This creates alienation from self and people behave almost as if ,”they do not have a mirror”. We are as Africans engulfed in what Cress-Welsing(1992) “the Global system of White supremacy via capitalism, mis education, politics-colour based/nationalistic, a minority held ownerships of entertainment, wars and sexualisation of every aspect of life. So, her argument is this, whether we sell Watch Tower and Awake magazines or we bleach our skin or surround ourselves with the Eurocentric Jesus or keep IPC-London in business by buying their all white magazines, and we not teaching our children our languages at home and we use our money to BMW, Mercedes Benz and Toyota in business, we are self-hating, dependent, unthinking /walking dead people, going nowhere but unto the road of madness and self destruction.

Cress-Welsing (1992) also talks about the fascination of European women with tanning and the bronze look, which has become a £14 m business in the UK in 2006. However figures for skin bleaching is not so easy to gather, especially if there is denial or a shame felt amongst the African communities. So, whilst figures are available widely, figures for skin bleaching are not up to date or accurate. The task doing a skin bleaching cream surveillance is the job of a committed, reliable, robust sociologist with a robust personality and financial support to carry out such a survey. It would mean comparing figures between Nigeria and the USA./ Brazil. Brazil and the USA have the largest population outside the African mainland. Nigeria, because it is the highest population in Africa although, not one of the 5largest countries within Africa eg The Congos, Algeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and South-Africa..

Imagined reasons given for using bleaching Cream

African women have given a plethora of reasons why they use it. Initially, they denied the use but, when one sees the “Fanta face-colour hands look“ They then often up some very vague reasons laden with myths and fiction Here are the common ones- respectability, acceptability, class mobility, to enhance beauty, to be attractive, to find a husband,. Others say, they use it to get a job. Others to be seen as fashionable and to be part of social practise of their friends. If their mothers, friends and or relatives use it, they are more likely to ape those practices. The writer has already shown how the cosmetic capitalists have commoditised and packaged beauty in a bottle and are making billions, with the help of mass media and the so called “beautiful people- under weight, over paid, idle rich European women on side. One Ghanian man said-”it is to do with the length of time since the countries were given “independence” Most people do not talk about the part their parents or education or the media played to arriving at this outlook.

If you are brought up in a household where such as this Jamaican lady who wants to remain anonymous said,” when I was 7 years old. I went to see my grandmother who said to her,” You look lovely, it’s a shame your skin is so dark!!”. Quotation from a story in January issue of the Grazzia women’s magazine. She went to say, “I know I am risking my life for lighter skin but she does not mind” she continues, “In October, I gave birth to my little boy. He has pale skin, closer to his European father’s colouring than mine. I was beside myself with delight. Perhaps. Because of his colour of his face, he will have a happier life?, the life I have always wanted” This girl is a 29 year old solicitor originally from Jamaica. The writer is certain-she played with “blond dolls”

Real Reasons for using Bleaching Cream

Fanon F (1967), Cress-Welsing (1992), Akbar (1992), Leary J (2004) all say similar things. The practice of skin bleaching is just another aspect of self hating alongside the worshipping of the Eurocentric Jesus of the ancient history book(bible) of middle eastern peoples ,including the Jews, the hair straightening, choosing miscegenation/social engineering, or marrying into races who have historically joined up with the Europeans to rip us off and help oppress us eg the Asians in Uganda/Kenya. The Jewish capitalist who monopolise the Diamond industry. These writers are saying these practices arise out the psychologically damaged or the accepted insane. Accepted insane are the people who are not institutionalised or have been to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist or are not taking prescribed medicines for depression or mood swings etc. but who, continue to self-mutilate, or deliberately self harm themselves with either bleaching cream or hair straigtheners or install green or blue eye lenses, which increases the risk of eye infection. Or the people who wilfully starve their brains of stimulation by spending long hours either seated at the hairdressers or in a church pews or aping every word/idea uttered by the Europeans.

Given the kind of over-exposure of people like Beyounce(USA), Halle Berry and Jaden Pickett, Michael Jackson (USA) plus Thandie Newton-Actress, Naomi Campbell, Angela Griffith, Corinne Bailey-Rae UK, and Stella Olasagun- now deceased wife of The President of Nigeria and the other lighter skinned models, is it any wonder why people a questioning the role of the magazines and the skin whitening industrialists as the two main factors fuelling the increased sales. Off course-it does help the industry that, their groups ideas are the ruling ideas. It does help that-they are just simply building on the self-hating legacies already prepared by their ancestors in Africa, Americas and in The Caribbean. Magazines such as ASPIRE/ PRIDE/NOIR in the UK, and Ebony and Essence and O in the USA often promote and sustain pigmentocratic leanings. So people like Alek Wek, India Arie, Tracy Chapman, Kola Boof are under exposed.

Artist like Michael Jackson, George Benson both -Jehovah’s witnesses, Stephanie Mills and Pattie Labelle have all altered the natural shape of their noses, to make it more “aquiline” and in line with the Eurocentric version of beautiful. Michael’s extreme pigmentocratic antics have become acceptable and quite mainstreamed.

In response to Michael Jackson’s and Beyounce’s pigmentocratic antics-Koka Boof- the Sudanese writer/ poet and storyteller says” Black women come from African blood.. So most of us do not have naturally long, straight and flowing hair like women in the movies, television, commercials, and the women on the NBA-long flowing hair isn’t a biological characteristic of the majority of African women. In addition, there has NEVER been a single pre-colonial society in Africa, where long, flowing hair was the standard for beauty not until the arrivals of the first European female missionaries in around 1900 in Africa. Quotation from Kola Boof (2005). These missionaries imposed themselves upon existing cultures, with the aim to destroy and get people to develop a hate for all things Africans. Artist/poet /playwright and writer Jane Musoke-Nteyafas is encouraging us , “to re-huemanise ourselves, re-learn to appreciate our African cultures and to also challenge some of not so useful practices, to make, write and read our own history from an areocentric perspective. She is also saying like others before-there is no universal concept of beauty especially a concept which only describes a minority group such as the Europeans whose population is minuscule, in comparison with say the populations of people of colours distributed in China. India and Africa.

In the preceding paragraphs the writer has showed that, the use of bleaching cream is not an isolated practice done on it’s own for fashionable reasons. It is part of a self hating, self mutilating routine, which have historical roots in or around the 1880’s. The skin bleaching and hair straightening is actually an extension of self -hating learnt in the earliest part of the master/slave relationships. That miscegenation which was used after 1907 to solve a labour shortage, have taken on almost quasi religious slant in Africans communities worldwide. With the increasing competition within the various cosmetic capitalist-there is a sense of ruthlessness and taking an unhealthy interest in the “body” as a sellable product” albeit in a “whiter form”-the whiter the better. Suddenly, we all want to like “ghost or shrouds”, which undermines all this talk of diversity and appreciating differences-including different skin tones.


In order for us to move from mental bondage which creates pigmentocrats and under-developers, we must take head of Hilliard AG (1976) warnings seriously which goes something like this,” Mental bondage is invisible violence. Formal physical slavery has ended in the USA (but not in Mauritania, Sudan ). Mental slavery continues to this present day. This slavery affects the minds our people and, in one way, it is worse than physical slavery alone. That is, the person who is in mental bondage will be self-contained/manageable and controllable. Not only will that person fail to challenge beliefs and patterns of thought which control him/her/them, he will defend and protect those beliefs and patterns of thought virtually with his last dying efforts” Taken from the foreword in the book Stolen legacy (1976)

We need to agree that, mental slavery leads to psychological damaging, which disables us from taking charge of our destiny, from loving ourselves and reuniting with the various African families. Our own slave mindedness continues to under-develops us . We are now approaching 200 since slave labour ended in the Americas and the Caribbean yet, the mental slavery and colonialism lives on. We also need to move from mis-education to education. We need to cease aping the Eurocentricity and replace it with Afrocentricity thinking and practice. We have to drop pigmemtocracy and adapt meritocracy e.g. let the liberated mind rule, rather than, “the light skinned”. Remember the words of Kwame Ture and Bantu Biko-” Black is beautiful”

We need to move from being repeating stations for Eurocentrism to challenging the reasons behind some of our destructive routines and sincerely want to change into heumans once more, who love themselves for the mind. We have to become people who want to embrace knowledge, relevant information and a healthy lifestyle. It is pointless up keeping other commercial ethnic groups whilst, under-developing our own communities. It is pointless talking about diversities and appreciating differences, when we practise the very opposite. It is pointless giving our hard-earned money to” god- corrupt and self-serving pastors”. We would do far better if we invested that money into Afrocentric Early Years education running alongside re-education Parenting programme.


If we hope to conquer the bleaching cream use and other destructive practices within African communities worldwide, we need to invest our own money into a structured early years programme which must be build on a Afrocentric foundation. Also, we must write our own curricula and manage our own schools and provide a relevant education in the middle and later years. The curriculum must be afrocentric and must prepare our children to face all the challenges that capitalistic and racist societies would throw at them in the future. We must stop under-developing our children and denying them mental stimulation. We must learn how to communicate with children of different age groups. This is one of the basic ways of addressing the existing psychological damage within our communities. We must invest in pre-natal and parenting education, which must be informed by up to date and relevant information. If we continue to neglect those areas-, our communities will always be blighted these self-hating, self mutilating practices. We must be committed, more disciplined, more reliable paying more attention to a structured Afrocentirc strategies to address mental slavery at the earliest stage in our life. We must stop producing performers, preachers and pigmentocrats ,our survival depends on these changes.

"When you are lighter, people pay more attention to you. It makes you more important and the rich men find you attractive," the sentiments of an Accra-based woman with light skin and dark knuckles.

Yet, the self-hate phenomenon of skin-bleaching is not limited to black women alone. The music fans of men like Michael Jackson and the famous Lumba Brothers, Charles Kwadwo Fosu (Daddy Lumba) and Nana Acheampong, have seen the skin of the stars go lighter and lighter with every album hit. Through multiple surgeries, Michael Jackson has arguably become transracial. Bleaching is often attributed to extreme low self-esteem, and a misplaced desire to be better appreciated.But, there is a growing repugnance within black communities worldwide against bleaching.

"Skin Bleaching" is the term applied to the process of cosmetic methods used to whiten the skin. It has for a long time been considered a common practice in dark skinned women in sub-Saharan Africa although increasingly, some dark skinned men have also taken to skin bleaching. The ideology and implementation of "Skin Bleaching" has been highly criticised throughout its existence as it has negative connotations related to image, identity and race based aesthetics not to mention certain severe skin conditions associated with the long term use of skin bleaching cosmetics.According to a report last July by Ibram Rogers, however, the European aesthetics of beauty and social rank have reached the shores of Africa, and are wreaking psychological and physical havoc on residents of Accra, Ghana, two studies suggested.

In two examinations conducted in 2005 by Jocelyn Mackey, an assistant professor of psychology at Southern Connecticut State University, more than 200 Ghanaian students aged 8 to 18 consistently equated attractiveness, opportunity, power and acceptance with lighter skin colour."The results from this study speak to the impact that the social and cultural climate has on the self-esteem of the Ghanaian students," Mackey says.

Another study reveals that many Ghanaians are turning to harmful skin-bleaching products to lighten their skin in hopes of being perceived as more attractive and successful.Yaba A Blay, a doctoral candidate in Temple University's African-American studies department, conducted a study last summer in which she surveyed approximately 600 residents of Accra and interviewed another 40 who reported bleaching their skin. Blay also interviewed government officials, medical personnel and product merchants, and reviewed public documents and media materials as source material for her dissertation, "Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Aesthetico-cultural Gendered Politics of Skin Color in Ghana."

"Despite attempts by the Ghanaian government to ban bleaching products and the extreme health risks including skin cancer, brain and kidney damage and sometimes death, the practice of skin bleaching is seemingly on the rise," says Blay. "It appears that in the context of global White supremacy, skin bleaching represents an attempt to gain access to the social status and mobility often reserved not only for whites, but for lighter-skinned persons of African descent."

This psychological phenomenon of extolling lighter skin is prevalent in black communities worldwide. "These perception are the result of learned behaviour and beliefs due to social factors and opportunities," Mackey says. "Many Ghanaians who I spoke with believe that lighter skin is associated with wealth and power."

In the study on skin bleaching, Blay found that Ghanaian women tend to bleach their skin at a disproportionately higher rate than Ghanaian men. That"s because the white ideal is consistently promoted to female consumers, Blay says.Furthermore, Blay says the rational for skin bleaching is different for Ghanaian men and women.

"Ghanaian women often admit to bleaching in order tolook more beautiful, noticeable and fashionable, while Ghanaian men who report bleaching do so as a means to appear of higher status and to gain more respect," she says.Ultimately, Blay says that a form of "commodity racism - the practice of using Whiteness to sell products to predominately Black consumers" is the underlying reason for the practice of skin bleaching."It has greatly influenced Africans’ perceptions that with the assistance of particular products — bleaching creams — they can approximate Whiteness, and as such reap all of the benefits, whether actual or perceived, afforded to Whiteness," she says.

The origin of skin colour derives from a substance known as Melanin. Melanin determines areas of uneven pigmentation. It affects most people, regardless of ethnic background or skin colour. Skin may either appear lighter or darker than normal; there may be blotchy, uneven areas, patches of brown to gray discolouration or freckling. Such skin pigmentation disorders occur because the body produces either too much or too little melanin. Melanin is the pigment produced by melanocyte cells and is triggered by an enzyme called tyrosinase. Increasingly, people are becoming preoccupied with blocking the production of Melanin, thus are finding treatments which inhibit the production of tyrosinase, namely Hydroquinone, steroid and Mercury based treatments.

Hydroquione treatments are considered safe, however if too much is applied, then irritations on the skin can be caused. However, in countries such as France the use of Hydroquione has been banned due to the fears of cancer risk that it can potentially cause.

Although highly popular, the use of skin whitening products has come under heavy criticism due to the results that they can cause. One of the most detrimental effects that skin whitening products can have is the effect towards ones IQ. Skin whitening products, often contain neurotoxins such as Mercury and the aforementioned Hydroquinone as the main active ingredient. Some bleaching creams also contain steroids of medium-potent to potent strength such as betamethasone or clobetasol. These steroid containing creams tend to cause thinning of the skin, making it more prone to disorders and breakage on parts of the body where friction occurs.

In some cases, skin lightening creams have been reported to cause acne and caused skin to become so delicate that it could be damaged even through a simple scratch. In other cases, these bleaching agents have ironically turned the skin black when applied over a long period of time .Although skin whitening may provide personal satisfaction in the form of perceived beauty, what should perhaps be readdressed is the negative effects that they can have both on body and mind.

If they must be used either to treat skin discolorations, tone down dark spots or to cure other disorders, then users must be cautioned to keep off skin lightening products with hydroquinone, mercury and steroids and to apply only to affected areas of the skin.
Skin tone more important than educational background for African Americans seeking jobs
Philip Lee Williams
August 16, 2006

Everyone knows about the insidious effects of racism in American society. But when it comes to the workplace, African-Americans may face a more complex situation--the effects of their own skin tone.

For the first time, a study indicates that dark-skinned African-Americans face a distinct disadvantage when applying for jobs, even if they have resumes superior to lighter-skinned black applicants.

Matthew Harrison, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, presented his research today at the 66th annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Atlanta. Along with his faculty supervisor, Kecia Thomas, a professor of applied psychology and acting director of UGA's Institute for African American Studies, Harrison undertook the first significant study of "colorism" in the American workplace.

"The findings in this study are, tragically, not too surprising," said Harrison. "We found that a light-skinned black male can have only a bachelor's degree and typical work experience and still be preferred over a dark-skinned black male with an MBA and past managerial positions, simply because expectations of the light-skinned black male are much higher, and he doesn't appear as 'menacing' as the darker-skinned male applicant."

While there have been other studies of effects of colorism socially, this is the first study designed specifically to examine how it operates in hiring and in the workplace.

In America especially, Harrison says, when people think of race or race relations they commonly think of black and white. In fact, skin tone differences are responsible for increasing differences in perceptions within standard racially defined groups such as "blacks." This diversity within races based on skin complexion has a long history but only recently have researchers begun to understand what these differences can mean.

Participants in the study that Harrison, himself an African American, directed for his master's thesis included 240 undergraduate students at the University of Georgia, some of whom participated in the study voluntarily, while others got class credit for their involvement. While there were a disproportionate number of females in the study (72 percent), this was due to the high percentage of women majoring in psychology at UGA and was adjusted for in reporting the research.

Each student was asked to rate one of two resumes that came with one of three photographs of a theoretical job applicant (one man, one woman) whose skin color was either dark, medium or light. Harrison manipulated the skin tones of the applicants with Adobe Photoshop so facial characteristics could not be included in how the students rated the job applicants.

"Our results indicate that there appears to be a skin tone preference in regards to job selection," said Harrison. "This finding is possibly due to the common belief that fair-skinned blacks probably have more similarities with whites than do dark-skinned blacks, which in turn makes whites feel more comfortable around them."

Harrison refers in his paper to numerous studies that show that light skin is almost universally valued among all racial groups. Hierarchies based on light skin are prevalent in Hindu cultures in India, for example, and in Asian and Hispanic cultures as well.

"While the respondents in this study were University of Georgia students, we think we would find the same response no matter where such a study was done in the country," said Thomas. "When you consider that probably no more than 1 percent of industrial and organizational psychologists are black, you can see why a study like this just hasn't been done before regarding colorism in the workplace. There are real-world consequences to these issues."

Harrison said he was surprised that skin hue was even more important than education in evaluating job applicants.

"Given the increasing number of biracial and multiracial Americans, more research similar to this study should be performed so that Americans can become more aware of the prevalence of color bias in our society," he said. "The only way we are going to begin to combat some of the inequities that result due to the beliefs and ideologies that are associated with colorism is by becoming more aware of the prejudices we have regarding skin tone due to the images we are exposed to on a regular basis."

Society, he said, equates lighter skin with attractiveness, intelligence, competency and likeability, while we are often given a "much more dismal and bleak picture" of those who have darker skin.

"The more we challenge these images and our own belief systems," said Harrison, "the greater the likelihood we will judge an individual by his or her actual merit rather than skin tone."

Reprinted from:
UK's skin bleaching trade exposed
By  Alphonso Van Marsh
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Accompanied by body-armor vested London police officers, Lambeth Senior Trading Standards Officer Ray Bouch walks into a beauty and cosmetics shop on Brixton's Electric Avenue. Bouch works for the London borough's Public Protection Unit -- tasked with keeping everything from faulty condoms to illicit vodka off the streets. Today, he's in search of contraband cosmetics: illegal skin bleaching creams British authorities say can be harmful to consumers. Within minutes, he's found almost a dozen bars of soap listing a banned bleaching agent on the box. "Illegal bleaching creams and soaps are a major problem," Bouch says. "And once we eradicate it from Brixton, it will go to another borough where there's a big Asian or Black population."
Skin bleaching -- using chemical or natural products to lighten skin color -- is common practice in the Americas, Africa, across Asia, and increasingly, in Europe. Psychologists say consumer demand can be traced to perceptions that lighter skinned or white people are more successful, intelligent and sexually desirable. And as the UK's Asian, African and African-Caribbean communities grow, so too -- cosmetics industry experts say -- does ethnic spending power for products promoted to lighten skin tone.But some of these creams, soaps and solutions contain hydroquinone, an ingredient that is banned in cosmetic products sold in the United Kingdom.
The United States Food and Drug Administration says based on experiments done on animals, it "cannot rule out" hydroquinone's potential cancer risk in humans.Use of the ingredient in over-the-counter cosmetics is restricted, but still legal, in the U.S., South Africa and other countries. And some of these products are making their way to store shelves across the UK. The police officers say they are stationed to keep the peace, as Bouch asks the store manager why the banned products are for sale.She says the bleaching soaps were an oversight: "The soaps are just something that's come on our shelves without us realizing. To sell this would be stupidity," she says.
But Bouch believes some shops are continuing to sell illegal skin creams despite the risk of fines because demand for the products is so high. "The only thing I can say is that it is demand-led. Shop owners are making a great profit from it," Bouch says. Cosmetics industry analysts say cosmetics companies are realizing there's money to be made here. They argue minority communities are an underserved market with a long tradition of buying bleaching products -- legal or otherwise. "Ethnic consumers in the UK account for around one in 10 people," says Alexandra Richmond, Senior Health and Beauty Analyst with Mintel Research.
Dr. Dele Olajide, a leading psychologist at King's College London, blames consumer demand on the media centering on fair skinned blacks like American pop singer Beyonce and British actress Thandie Newton."The image that the media presents about black people is that we are inferior, we are not as good as everybody else. But those who are successful and going places are those who are light-skinned people. So one might say that the desire to be like white people underpins people's wanting to be fairer-skinned," Olajide says.Recently in the U.S., an African American D.J. was roundly criticized for offering light-skinned women free admission into a Detroit nightclub.So-called "colorism" isn't limited to blacks: A commercial seen on Indian satellite channels and on YouTube stars Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan promoting a skin cream called "Fair & Handsome."The commercial shows a remarkably glum dark-skinned Indian man who, after using the skin lightening cream, turns many shades whiter. He now walks with confidence -- and with a lovely lady running to his side.Dermatologists say bleaching creams with hydroquinone are safe to reduce the appearance of age spots or smaller blemishes -- if used as directed. Dermatologists say bleaching creams with hydroquinone are safe to reduce the appearance of age spots or smaller blemishes -- if used as directed.
 Read what dermatologists in America say in defense of hydroquinone  But other skin specialists say abusing products, for example by rubbing the product on the entire face, neck or body can be dangerous over time. "There is no safe way to bleach your skin beyond your natural color," says Sujata Jolly, a research scientist."Initially, [the bleaching cream] will appear to lighten the skin," she says. "The reaction between the sun and chemicals triggers an oxidation reaction, which then starts turning the skin darker ... and as the skin gets darker, one uses more cream more vigorously."By doing that you start to break the skin, and then the chemicals will then penetrate into the bloodstream and reach your liver and kidneys. And that's where it could cause more damage," she says.


Publié dans health-sante

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