The bleaching phenomena
“Dem a bleach, dem a bleach out dem skin, dem a bleach, to look like a browning…”
Some Barbadians have been brainwashed into believing that the lighter they are in complexion, the better and more beautiful they will be.
The answer for many who have bought into this belief is Bleaching.
Despite the many warnings, some people are still bleaching their dark skin to become lighter.
We put the question to Nation online readers to get their views on this practice. We didn’t only ask if Bajans were still bleaching their skin, but also searched for answers to the question: “Do you believe colour is still an issue for some of us”.
Many said yes, noting that it was a throwback to slavery and the stereotype that lighter is better, while others gave the simple advice of being yourself, recognizing that beauty goes way beyond skin colour.
Here are some of the comments we received on our Facebook page.
Shelly Chung: “Society has brain washed most people that the lighter the colour of their skin the more successful they will be because they will have more options for jobs. Many individuals have bought into this stereotype and even believe themself to be more beautiful if their skin is of a lighter shade. It is unfortunate but this problem started during slavery and continues today.”
Greta Marlin: “Most people used the phrase, Black is beautiful, and I must agree. But when it pertains to very dark skin, they are fooled by society in believing that the darker the skin, the uglier they are. Very dark skin women today feel less beautiful, no matter how very beautiful others tell them they are. Women of today are career oriented and also want to feel sexy and beautiful. If going to the gym five days a week, wearing nice clothes and bleaching their dark skin (ignoring all the published warnings about bleaching their skin) is what it takes to get ahead in this world, then they will do what they have to do. Can we really blame them?”
Susie Caponie: “Some Bajans do bleach their skin because of the backward notion that the lighter they are the more beautiful they are. The truth is that their minds were bleached as children by ignorant parents and fore parents and poisoned against the beauty of their Black skin. The reality is that in 2011 there are still Bajans who try to perpetuate this ridiculous notion and despite all the education in the world it seems to be engraved deeply into their psyche. There are even people going as far as procreating with people of lighter complexions and other races in the hope of “saving” their offspring from the “curse” of Black skin. It is sad that in Barbados in 2011 that lighter skin people are treated more favourably than their dark peers. We still hear phrases like ” pretty brown skin girl” or “black as the ace of spades”. No wonder people who do not have the strength of character to feel comfortable about the Black skin which they were born in continue to bleach.”
Risee Chaderton: “As someone who has worked in the cosmetics industry I can tell you the one thing I could never order enough of was fade creams, the stronger the better and I know of pharmacists who would mix up five per cent hydroquinone solutions for women who walked in off the street. When I pointed out that this was crazy and possibly dangerous all I was told was “They want it so I’ll do it”. While it might be nice to think it doesn’t happen and to wish it wasn’t so, it does and it is and the problem is much deeper than many of us would like to believe. People don’t have to openly say negative things about dark skin for dark skinned people to understand that light skin is the preferred choice, all they have to do is not say anything when presented with dark skin but gush and smile and beam when they see light skin and less nappy/kinky hair. Enough positive reinforcement like that and it is no wonder that even if we don’t vocalise it it many people still understand that lighter skin is preferred”.
Rosanne Brathwaite: “ What is so sad about this whole thing is that women who are light skinned, although they are still Black, tend to discriminate against women of darker skin. As a woman of a dark complexion I grew up hearing that I should bleach my skin but thank God I never did and never will because My Black is Beautiful!”
Deon Mayers: “I’ve found in the last few years that a number of women (young and old) have been bleaching their skin but I fear that many of them don’t have a clue why and are just following a trend. It seemed the bleached skin went along with the trend to put black dye at front of the hair line. Any bet now with the bleached skin of Vbyz Kartel our boys will start bleaching too. So while some may have that lighter skin thought pattern I think most are just getting on the band wagon”
I-Lissa Grant: “I’ve found that within the Barbadian society despite the many developmental processes the mind-set of the people are like back in the days of slavery. The Black man has been brainwashed to think that everything white is right. People would bleach their skin for many reasons like some mentioned above, but one must also realise that it is true the Barbadian society is still pretty much racist and there is a saying “If you are white you are alright, If you are brown stick around but if you are Black stay back” and many people within society today are not proud of their dark complexion. Hence many of these people bleach, hoping that they would get a better living for themselves and children”.
Adrian Lorde: “I was not aware of that Barbadian women were actually bleaching their skins. I have not had this request made professionally, nor have I seen women suffer any complications and sought medical advice or treatment. That does not mean it is not happening here as I know it has been practiced in Jamaica for many years now with some suffering as a result. From a medical viewpoint, it is dangerous, not recommended but I do not see why when Black is beautiful should one want to become lighter”.
Janice McFadden: “ This should not be done in this day and age. We white people go out of our way to get a colour and pay the price, so you Black people out there stop beaching – you have beauiful skin”.
Patrick Porter: “I am White and I think that you should be who you are and not someone or something other than you. Be proud of yourself. Outside is only skin deep, it is what that is inside that matters.”