by Selam Aster
You may have seen a victim at some point. A person with an ash-colored coat of film over their face with skin so depleted of a healthy glow that it appears to be starving for nutrients. But a dermotologist wouldn’t help her cause, only self-esteem would. That’s because she’s conditioned herself to look this way, by lathering on skin bleaching cream in hopes that she will be reborn as a lighter-skinned Black woman.
The Associated Press recently looked into why and how more and more people in Jamaica’s slums are using skin bleaching cream to “lighten” their complexions. Skin lightening is nothing new, especially in third world countries in Africa and also in India, which boasts the biggest marketplace for these dangerous creams. According to the AP, “hardcore bleachers use illegal ointments smuggled into the Caribbean country that contain toxins like mercury, a metal that blocks production of melanin, which give skin its color, but can also be toxic.”
Although the Jamaican government has launched campaigns to communicate the dangers of skin lightening, officials don’t know how much of an impact they will have considering that a 2007 campaign called “Don’t Kill the Skin” did nothing to slow the craze.”
While darker people lighten, lighter people tan, also causing damage to their skin. These acts essentially represents the yin and yang of beauty ideals in the world but what does this say about the course of evolution? Does it manifest a race to create one race, which is neither black nor white, but in the middle? From a theoretical perspective, it seems that it does. We are wired to see differences, although many of us don’t want to admit that we pre-judge in this day and age. The biological answer to fostering less prejudice would be to have less obvious differences between us, especially in terms of appearance.
While we lament the self-esteem issues that drive us to change our color or alter our features, it is important to note what these acts imply in the the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t make it any more acceptable but it does help us to better understand the complex nature of identity.