RACISM, SKIN LIGHTENING AND THE MEDIA

Anthropologists have described how all humans, consciously or not, see the world through a racial lens that colors our world in terms of white, black, Asians, Latinos or Eskimos. This automatically influences how we act and or interact with others in all areas of our being. It follows logically that the social structure we inhabit is largely dictated by race.

The celebrated Nigerian Afro-Beat King, (Late) Fela Kuti was regarded as a social critic poet who in the mid 1970’s composed an everlasting song, titled “Yellow Fever”. The melodious song   drew attention to the skin lightening craze especially among African women who engaged in a self-destructive habit of bleaching their natural skin to look like white women. The elaborate lyrics describe various types of “Fever” resulting from malaria, jaundice, influenza, hay, among others, and the self-inflicted ‘yellow fever’. He warned that while all other types of fever are curable, Yellow Fever remain permanent and leaves a permanent debilitating damage to a bleacher. (©Yellow Fever Lyrics, 1976 Fela Kuti). Fela then rhetorically asks the bleacher “My Sister, Who say you fine?” The chanting chorus repeatedly chant “Na Lie, You no fine at all, at all!” Fela warned vigorously, “You go die, o!”  Unfortunately women fell in love with the pulsating music for the wrong reasons, without a thought for the lyrics meaning. The recording has been a best seller for decades since.

Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic manufacturers worldwide have capitalized on increasing demand by especially dark-skin women in the United States of America, Africa, Caribbean, Asia, China, and virtually in all areas of the universe where the media invariably ceaselessly echo the race construct that emphasizes how a whiter skin color provides accesses to all the advantages that life has to offer, such as types of jobs, friends, residential area, money, schools, and even the foods consumed. The main skin lightening line of cosmetic and  drug industry is estimated to be in excess of  $10 Billion and is also supplemented by illegal markets of crude mercury based concoctions sold to poorer market women all over Africa particularly in Nigeria who are adamant about looking like Hollywood, Bollywood, and Africa’s Nollywood actresses.

There continues to be muffled debates on the reasons adduced by especially the poorer dark-skinned women of Africa, Caribbean and the United States. Some talk of wanting more personal respect from others for looking light skinned which may mean a suspected white lineage, possibly to give them delusional advantages to better life and social acceptance. Others bleach for professional reasons, among who are musicians, for greater acceptance by their audience, actresses to get better roles in films or theatre. And there are those who want to be admired and or attract men “who prefer” lighter skinned female companions, plus professional sex prostitutes to enhance their trade. It really does not matter any longer whether the whole show began with dark skin females or males in the United States of America, traceable to the historical slave trade aftermath when dark skin women were directly encouraged to bleach in order to enhance their acceptance into the American society.

Marketers, with straight face, justified the encouragement of dark-skin women comparing skin bleaching to white women’s innocent desire to tan and tone their skin for beauty reasons. Darker skinned persons in the Middle East, India, and China are similarly reported to bleach their skin for social construct prospects and or advantages. The media has been one notorious culprit that propagates the notion of “white is more acceptable” in all aspects of living.  One can almost forgive African women and others in the Third World for blindly falling for what Fela Kuti called “Na lie!” The craziness, for instance, only gained momentum after the Nigerian oil boom era when the importation of everything “foreign”, including media consumption became fashionable. Advertisement print copies aimed at   white audiences in Europe and America were simply used for marketing to the rest of the world.

Despite some obvious visible damages like blotched or burnt skin, discoloration and evident risk of skin cancer, it appears that the pervading noise level in the mass media and social media  encouraging and  convincing women of color to damn the consequence and bleach their skin so that they may be socially accepted by the  “white  world” are taken as normal. Psychologists shout themselves hoarse warning that dark skin children worldwide only see their future in becoming white, the coming generation of Africans and African American are being lost to the craze for skin lightening.

One wonders why Black-owned media in Africa, the United States of America and Europe do not put up a spirited fight to reverse the steady deprecating loss of self-belief in the Black World globally. What are African leaders doing to encourage massive renovation or construction of new museums in all educational institutions in order to sustain self-belief among the future generation?