If there’s anything that illustrates the open secret of skin bleaching in communities of color, it’s the Afro hair shop. Alongside aisles of shampoo, hair oils, and extensions, you’ll almost certainly find creams promising fair skin. Occasionally they are tucked away behind the register, but often they are stacked on the shelves in full view.
Dark-skinned women know the scourge of colorism all too well. Despite positive messages from my parents growing up, the Black women I was implicitly told were beautiful — whether in magazines or music videos — looked nothing like me. For many young Black women who came of age on social media, the messages were more explicit. In a recent piece for gal-dem, Tobi Kyeremateng wrote about the competitive degradation of dark-skinned Black women on Twitter and the negative impact it had. Likewise I’ve learned from Indian friends that, thanks to the caste system, skin tone and perceived social class are tightly interwoven; they have told me that it isn’t uncommon to be bullied by lighter-skinned classmates or warned by older relatives not to get dark in the sun.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that for many years a significant number of dark-skinned Black and Asian women felt inclined to lighten their skin. In an article for The Guardian, body-positive influencer Stephanie Yeboah wrote about her “toxic love affair” with bleaching creams in her younger years; on YouTube you’ll find dozens of videos in which women share similar experiences. But a shift is underway. Colorism is still rife, but speaking to friends and other women of color, many of us have begun to sense change. It seems skin lightening is gradually falling out of …read more