The pictures of Nigerian singer Dencia and the proliferation of the use of bleaching creams in majority-Black nations had me extremely tight yesterday. I addressed it in my previous post, but I am still vexed and highly angered with it. There is part of me that accepts the foolishness among my own tribe of the African Diaspora. African-Americans are a minority and have lived in a White Supremacist Settler state for centuries. So while I would certainly LIKE to see us take a certain level of pride in ourselves I know how hard it is given our historical and current reality in the United States. But I used to expect much more from my Sub-Saharan kin. Indeed, I’ve never felt more relaxed and comfortable in my dark skin as I did when I was in Tanzania in 2006.
Being surrounded by Black people-not Black in the very loose manner that we use in the United States where someone like civil rights leader Walter White is deemed ‘Black’-made me feel like I belonged. Back on the West Coast of the States I could never escape the feeling of being the fly in the buttermilk. In Dar es Salaam I was just another Black woman among an entire nation of Black folks, and it was great. But my experience in Tanzania belied a painful reality: my Sub-Saharan kin did not escape the influence of White Supremacy either. The legacy of colonialism and the global dominance of Eurocentric beauty standards has infiltrated the continent as well. I have heard some argue that Colorism among African-Americans is actually fueling the bleaching epidemic in Africa, as people are only emulating the images that they see in media promoted by African-Americans. When I was in Dar a young man I randomly chatted with in the streets actually did not believe me when I told him I was African-American. He frankly told me that I was “too dark” to be African-American, as the only AA women he ever saw in videos and movies were ones the color of Beyonce and Halle Berry. I was taken aback, but given the marginalization of dark women I couldn’t be that mad at him.
That incident took place in 2006. It is now 2014, and it seems that bleaching is getting worse. I cannot describe the anger I feel when I see people of African descent-especially those born and raised in Africa-doing this to themselves. Some will say that we have more important issues to think about. I agree that people of African descent worldwide have a number of issues to focus and work on. But I loathe bleaching deeply because of what it represents . I view it as a capitulation to White Supremacy. To physically alter oneself in order to resemble those who enslaved millions of Africans is a sickness. To risk your health and your life(as the products used to bleach one’s skin are toxic) to look like those who carved up Africa during the Berlin Conference is a sickness. In my opinion such actions clearly announce to the world that one believes the hype. They believe that they are inferior to Europeans, that their blackness is a curse to be rid of.
I understand how it happens. Bleaching is truly the self-hate that hate produced. I am not sure how to help those whose minds have been twisted to the point that they get their Sammy Sosa on. At times I wonder if the fight against it all is even worth it. But I soon get my wits about me and climb up out of that pity pool. My resistance, OUR resistance, is not futile. Giving up is not an option for me. Giving in is not an option for me, and it would be the words of my nine-year old daughter that would help inspire me and strengthen my resolve.
After seeing pictures of the effects of skin bleaching last night, my daughter asked why some dark-skinned people do that to themselves. I reminded her of the centuries of conditioning and hate that people of African descent have received and explained to her that bleaching was the manifestation of that. Her reply? “That’s ridiculous! They should let their haters be their motivators!” I high fived my baby girl and smiled at her. Her words were on point and sum up my view as a dark-skinned woman. Society, and even some in our own community, can put out the hype that light is right. But I don’t have to believe it. They can sell the idea of whiteness being best-but I don’t have to buy it.
People can make negative and hateful comments about dark skin if they want to. But their hateful attitudes only motivate me to revel in my tone even more. Think that dark women shouldn’t wear red lipcolor(I’m talking to you A$AP Rocky)? I’ll throw on my NARS lipgloss just to SLAY and prove how wrong you are. Tell dark-skinned people they should only wear dark colors to blend in with their skin? I’ll tell you to go fuck yourself as I sashay past you clad in coral and gold. I’m not here for timid, quiet and insecure Blackness. There is no substitute for what I am. And though I can certainly appreciate the beauty of white women, I have absolutely no desire to usurp it. I will never, ever, ever seek to become the bootleg version of a white woman. I’m of the mind that, whoever you are, there ain’t nothin like the real thing. There is much to be said for inhabiting your authentic self. Others are free to make their own choices. They can try to transform if they want to. But as for me and my house, we will remain boldly and beautifully black.