Beauty and the Bleach: This Issue is More than Skin Deep

Beauty and the Bleach: This Issue is More than Skin Deep


Yaba Blay, Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science
North Carolina Central University

Skin bleaching is a billion-dollar industry. Considering its global reach, Dr. Yaba Blay says we have to stop treating bleaching as just a matter of self-hate.

Over the past few years, social media has been abuzz with discussions of skin bleaching. In recent weeks, we’ve lamented Lil Kim’s ghostly shadow of her former self, ridiculed Ghanaian boxer Bukom Banku for denouncing his black skin, and dragged Azaelia Banks for becoming a virtual spokesmodel for Whitenicious by Dencia. While we talk amongst ourselves, a segment of a 2012 video investigating “unusual beauty trends” in Jamaica has resurfaced on Facebook. Viewed over two million times in less than one week, in that segment we see a soft-spoken blonde-haired European reporter “in the trenches” as she talks to a number of Jamaicans about their bleaching and offers requisite warnings about the dangers of the practice.

Whether from the perspectives of Black folks or from those of Whites, our communal voyeurism into skin bleaching tends to focus almost solely on the individuals who bleach their skin, and not the global institutions that make skin bleaching a viable option. And it’s a problem…

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