Let me say this. I’m not shocked. Skin bleaching has been around forever. Throughout history, there has been this persisting perception that “white was right.” A lighter skin tone implied wealth, prestige and superiority.
There is evidence of skin whitening dating back as early as the ancient Egyptian and Roman eras. And it has sustained today, becoming quite commonplace in some Caribbean and African nations. There is even a poll from the World Health Organization that suggests more than 70 percent of Nigerian women have admitted using a skin bleaching product.
But in 2016 and in the United States, we actively promote the #BlackisBeautiful mantra, right? And at least here, we, people of color are more proud of our blackness, right? Or maybe not.
Yesterday, rapper and notorious social media fire starter Azealia Banks’ social media post sparked yet another controversy for the musician. In the Facebook Live video, she admitted and defended her practice of skin lightening. She even went as far as comparing it to wearing a weave.
“What’s [the] difference between getting a nose job and changing your skin color? What’s the difference between wearing a hair weave and changing your skin color? Nobody was upset when I was wearing 30-inch weave and tearing out my edges…”
Now, Banks isn’t the first to come under fire for skin whitening. Fans and celebrity blogs have equally criticized stars such as Lil Kim, Sammy Sosa and even Michael Jackson for allegedly using skin whitening products. But is this just the next thing that we should get used to? Should we just accept this as the new norm?
[WARNING: Here comes my personal opinion]
I think we have come a long way in embracing our blackness again. I personally love the natural hair movement. I’m proud to see more and more natural hair chicks represented as standards of beauty in everyday society. When ALL parts of our black spectrum are celebrated and uplifted in popular culture, we show the world how beautiful we black women can be—in all our forms.
Now, I’m not knocking the weave route either (I admit I’ve also worn a weave and have straightened my hair from time-to-time). So if you feel like you want a weave, get a weave. If you want a nose job, get a nose job. It’s my opinion that everyone is entitled to DO YOU!
My concern is that skin bleaching (as Banks suggested) will become as commonplace as a hair weave or nose job. What will happen when the larger world sees our incredibly diverse spectrum of skin colors, hair types, nose shapes, etc. shrink into one uniform standard of black beauty, which appears all too similar to the Eurocentric vision of beauty that’s dominated for centuries?
Whether we like it our not, celebrities do dictate our trends and perceptions. So will Ms. Banks’ endorsement of skin bleaching start a trend? Will it make it more acceptable for others who’ve considered these whitening practices? What will it say to other little brown girls who admired Ms. Banks for her previous beautiful browner skin tone because it looked like theirs?
BMWK, what do you think of skin bleaching? Will it become the new norm? Do you think altering black features like hair, noses and skin color show a lack of self love?