Black and Proud ?
I have to begin my journey with something disturbing, because for all our braggadocio and so called independence as a people in Africa, we seem to suffer from a serious identity problem. Quite a number of highly successful black women from everyday life to showbiz circles seem to epitomise self effacing. I will not pretend to be a psychologist or one of the sociology fundis but I have to wonder whether the colonial hangover is too tardily leaving our collective psyche as Africans.
Our definition of beauty appears to be seriously warped and informed by the mass media. We may end up with a generation of ghastly looking women folk who have been maimed by the lighteners if the media peddled trend persists.Worse still, the seeming lack of self love may lie at the heart of the unbridled violence perpetrated in the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. How else can we explain slaughtering, necklacing i.e. burning a human being who looks like you do if hate is not the main driver of your action ?
Global vanity, black market
Of course coming to think of it, vanity is not the preserve of Black people. It is very human to want to improve on mother nature’s pantry.There however extremes that we need to guard against as a people.
In Africa today you can’t buy skin lighteners over the counters in some strictly regulated African countries, but the black market is laden with untested Chinese imports.Strangely even at the height of the Sixties and Seventies black and proud era, the lighteners surreptitiously found their way onto the supermarket shelves. I distinctly remember a brand called Ambi which was widely used by vain young black women craving the look of lightness. Many got their skins permanently singed as a result of the active chemical in the creams. It seems that the wheel has turned again as I walk through African streets today.
Depro beauties ?
Dencia before applying skin lightening cream (left) and after applying it
Deprozone is a skin lightening product that sisters from Cape to Cairo are band waggoning on.
In Nigeria, they call their version Whitenicious and Dencia, a Cameroonian-Nigerian singer is the poster girl of this tragic movement. She is in fact the owner of the product that is turning pitch black Afro girls into female versions of Michael Jackson!The girls that use the product look so pale now you can’t even spot a single dot of melanin on them.
Dirty cash and brisk business
A tube of “Whitenicious” goes for $150 for 60ml! You need to put it on every month don’t you? That means you need to buy it regularly and set yourself back that much. Most folk in Africa live off just one dollar.
Africa Insider reports that 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products. The World Health Organisation is the quoted source of these stats. The skin lightener business is reported to be worth $19, 8 billion. Africa and Asia are the main hubs of this tricky business.
The skin lightener’s other downside is that it contains hydroquinone, steroids and mercury to mention a few of the chemicals which cause a plethora of problems including stretch marks, blotches, skin infections and exogenous ochronosis.I don’t know what the last one mentioned means, but it sounds grim enough to me. Consider dear friends the psycho-social toll of these skin bleachers.
Granted, some are born light skinned and long haired. But many of our women literally bleach their skin and support the billion dollar fake hair industry. The idea is to look better. White actually. Such is the depth of the mental scar I dare say. The silent mantra seems to be : black is ugly…But what’s wrong with looking like Lupita Ny’ongo the dark skinned Oscar winning beauty ?
Epiphany about the late king of pop
Some comic once joked that America is a land of wonders — a land where a boy is born black and dies looking like a middle-aged white woman in reference to the late legendary singing and dancing prodigy Michael Joseph Jackson.But that was an uncharitable thing to say. The cruel irony is that Michael was one of the black race’s greatest artists in living memory.
How deep must self hatred have run for him to feign having a so called disease called vitiligo in a bid to explain his ridiculously white skin whilst bleaching it secretly (my subjective opinion)? And this, apart from having several nose jobs aimed at removing our squashed banana African kind . . .
Man in the mirror
I have had an epiphany about the late king of pop Michael Jackson who was a childhood idol of mine. Michael’s musical hero was James Brown another legendary musician who espoused the black and proud ethos in his music.Take songs like “Say it loud” for instance.Strangely Michael did not borrow everything from him.The thing just bugs me now. Black people, my people, seem to have a deep running problem with self acceptance.Used to think that it was only Michael.I find that he was not alone as the evidence looms large with every music video of female black music stars.
A few hard questions
It’s time to ask ourselves the hard questions. If we do not love ourselves and each other, who will love us ? The recent black on black violence in South Africa may be indicative of a terrible malady which must find its cure in African self acceptance and black love. Fearfully and wonderfully made is the African too. But he must first believe it. There are thousands of African prophets preaching the prosperity gospel. I hope to Heaven they start preaching the ‘prosperity of the African soul’ gospel. May be only then can this nation and its people occupy its place in the family of nations as an equal in every sense of the word. For now however, it really does seem that Africans, my people, are slaves to foreign brands and foreign images.
PS// Word of advice to sisters and the men who fuss over the colour of a woman’s skin: love yourself as God made you, fearfully and wonderfully. Tell black girls that black is beautiful, and say it like you actually mean it.