Does Lighter Skin Mean That They’re Better Than Me?
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Shadeism WR

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King

Shadeism is real.

Shadeism defined:
The discrimination of individuals based on skin tone. Generally a phenomenon occurring within one’s own ethnic group.

As part of this month’s theme of ‘History Lessons’, I think it is beneficial to educate you on where some of society’s existing prejudices and discrimination originate from as you know – “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.”

Did you know that 2.6 million people in the Caribbean bleach their skin to become lighter? If you think this is bad, the figure is twice as high amongst India and various other Asian countries. Why is this?

For centuries, both women and men from Asian and Afro-Caribbean descent have been told to believe that the fairer your skin, the more attractive you are. For Afro-Caribbean’s, this mentality stems from the days of slavery (1400’s-1800’s)where the women were raped by their Caucasian slave masters and hence had dual-heritage children with lighter skin, who automatically received better treatment and living conditions; they were known as “house slaves”in comparison to their darker counterparts known as “field slaves”. Once slavery was abolished, Afro-Caribbean’s carried the same ideals with them, causing segregation and disunity amongst themselves including those with lighter skin being entitled to better jobs and food, more money and better quality lifestyles. They even went as far to create the infamous ‘Paper bag test’, if they were lighter than the brown paper bag they were considered beautiful, however if they were darker than the paper bag, they were ugly.

As for people in the Indian / Asian community, they have what is known as the ‘caste system’ a social hierarchy dividing people based on their social status. Although the caste system has several characteristics to distinguish what people are eligible for (economics, language, culture), over the years skin colour has also become a deciding factor of the type of treatment you are entitled to.

As time has evolved an internalised hatred amongst ethnic majority groups has grown rapidly, light skin vs dark skin, light Afro-Caribbean’s vs dark Afro-Caribbean’s, light Asians vs dark Asians. As we look at history, we can see how our perception of what is deemed to be beautiful skin has been tainted by ‘opinion’, not fact, I repeat – one, single, dictionary undefined, meaningless, opinion.

In 2014, I have to question if things are any different or have they just become discrete? As we look across the media, the runway, billboards and TV ads, we witness blatant prejudices making women and men from African, Caribbean, Indian, Asian and yes even Caucasian backgrounds question whether the way they look will ever be good enough. There are countless cases where celebrities such as Beyonce’, Lil Kim, Sammy Sosa, Nicki Minaj, Tamar Braxton and various Bollywood stars including Kajol, Sridevi and Rekha (just to name a few)who carry out skin bleaching to become more acceptable in their careers and industries. Then on the opposite end of the scale you have socialites such as Kim Kardashian constantly getting fake tan in attempt to make her skin look darker.

French Vogue

An image from French Vogue’s 2009 October Edition showing Lara Stone ‘blackened up’.

One extreme case study was in 2010 when French Vogue painted Dutch supermodel – Lara Stone’s face and body in dark brown make-up, opposed to using an actual black model for their photo-shoot – imagine that? Another example, is in the cases of celebrity US singers Alicia Keys and Fantasia Barrino. In 2010. both singers were involved in separate cases of a holding relationship with married men. Some of the public were outraged with the way in which the media scrutinised Barrino, instantly labeling her with a scarlet letter. However, it was interesting to see how Keys was able to escape this type of media scrutiny. Again in this instance, it was brought back to the underlying factor of whether Fantasia’s darker skin tone was a reason for the impartial media backlash. Whether this was the intention or not, it’s hard not question if the media were actually justifying Alicia’s behaviour just because she happens to have a lighter shade of skin; when in reality you and I both know that wrong is wrong and is no respecter of persons.

If it isn’t Africans, Caribbean’s and Asians afraid of being too dark, Caucasians are afraid of being too pale, with ginger hair and freckles – which by the way I think red hair is absolutely gorgeous. When will society ever be satisfied?

I recently read a self-esteem report by Dove which stated:

  • 62% of all girls feel insecure or not sure of themselves.
  • 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel their appearance does not measure up, including not feeling pretty enough, thin enough or stylish or trendy enough.
  • 78% of girls with low self-esteem admit that it is hard to feel good in school when you do not feel good.

Instead of realising what history has done and annihilating this twisted ideal of lighter skin or darker skin being better, we have simply entertained it and as a result have created a generation of young women who have no self-worth and feel inadequate.

If people could only just realise that beneath this skin, we all bleed the same and our bodies contain the same internal organs; so why have we become so obsessed with skin tone and complexion?

I’m sickened when young men from my own race think that they are paying me a prestigious compliment when they say ‘You are pretty for dark skinned girl.’ Complexion shouldn’t even come into it, I am beautiful because I am beautiful, and I shouldn’t have to justify to the world how or why, just accept me for me. And this my dear skool girl is how you should view yourself, if you believe you are beautiful then guess what it’s true! No one has the right to determine beauty for you and your skin is only a part of you, it shouldn’t define you or your worth as a person.

So to answer your question, no, she or he is not better than you are because they have lighter or darker skin, they just look different to you, yet this is not something that should make you feel inferior. Our differences is what makes the world look beautiful in the first place, good gracious how extremely uninspiring would life be if we all looked the same?

Always remember this, beauty goes way beyond your skin; it is in fact a combination of all a person’s qualities.

(Cover photo via tumblr / Edited by Skool Girl Online)

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