Sede Alonge’s recent Telegraph article on the controversial topic of skin-bleaching was a half and half for me: while I agree with some of the points raised I disagree completely with others, and remain stunned by the essay’s lack of insight as to why whitening of the skin remains so hot today.I had similar reactions when I read Bibi Bakare-Yusuf’s take on skin bleaching among Nigerian women, in which she asserts that people who bleach their skin do not hate being Black and that blaming women’s choice to bleach on “colonial mentality” denies their agency.
African societies hypocritical stance towards skin bleaching Firstly we must not deceive ourselves, a huge number of Africans prefer light skin.
To confirm this, one only has to look at our music videos and the faces of many of our most popular celebrities.
The confusing thing about this preference is that these are usually the same Africans who will turn around and chastise people for skin-bleaching.
When a woman looks like she is obviously whitening her skin there will be much ridicule directed towards her, however, if a woman is fair-skinned (regardless of whether she is bleaching or not) she will be praised for her beauty.
One of the biggest delusions we suffer as post-colonial Africans is that we can easily get over the devastation of colonisation.
Over 300 years of slavery, subjugation and ruthless oppression can apparently be solved in 50 or so years since we were “freed”.
Bleaching among African Americans started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the practice grew popular in African countries during the colonial era, becoming increasingly popular as a cosmetic choice in the 1950s.
Today the spotlight is on Vera Sidiki, bleaching her skin and proclaiming that she is proud of the way she looks. It has been suggested that the descendants of Africans who were forcibly enslaved in the United States still suffer from post-traumatic stress linked to the brutal treatment of their ancestors.
I have witnessed different reactions towards my complexion because of the ease in which I can bounce from one spectrum of the skin tone scale to the other.
I get light enough to be considered “fair” in Nigeria during the winter and then go back to being my regular dark tone in other seasons.
When I am lighter I never hear the end of compliments on how beautiful my skin looks, but when I’m darker it’s “why are you so now?