Society has of late and if not for centuries decreed that dark skin is ugly and for one to be more appealing and readily acceptable they have to be light in complexion more so for women. Many Africans strongly believe, “if it is white it is beautiful”. This has resulted in black women bleaching their skin.
Most people attribute skin bleaching to black women due to the black race being mentally imprisoned due to colonization, white skin was the epitome of beauty and or to the media that often portrays light-skinned black Africans as the mouthpiece of the whole race. I strongly believe it’s a choice we make every day as a people because only you can define who you are.
If we were born with the mentality that, “Black” was intended to mean inferior after a time our ancestors had suffered psychological mayhem of internalized self-hate due to colonization that was not our mistake. However, if we live feeling inferior and loathing our dark skin that is now our choice we have made.
A young black actress who has been labeled a revolutionary for black women after she went through backlash for her casting in the movie, The Hunger Games once remarked, “……My blackness does not inhibit me from being beautiful and intelligent. In fact it is the reason I am beautiful and intelligent”. Her empowering words helped me realize that the problem with us black women is loathing our blackness as a choice we make because it is either we wish were lighter then bleach our skin to look lighter or we simply embrace our blackness and love the skin we were born in.
When a black woman uses chemicals to bleach her skin she is not only saying she thinks she is ugly, but she is screaming “hey I have some degree of self-hate and I have low self-esteem.” African women are hence unequivocally telling their daughters and sisters that they are ugly. If we are women of faith we have to recall that God does not make mistakes.
A recent World Health Organization report said Nigerians are the highest users of skin bleaching products, with 77% of Nigerian women using skin bleaching on a regular basis. They are followed by Togo with 59%, South Africa with 35%, and Mali at 25%.
Skin lightening use is also rife in Zimbabwe. More women are resorting to using skin lightening products ostensibly to look more beautiful and attractive. And it seems they are not deterred by the government’s warnings about the adverse effects of skin bleaching products.
Apart from psychological negative effects, skin bleaching has negatives health effects and these include skin cancer, thinning of the skin, neurological and kidney damage due to high levels of mercury used in the creams, psychiatric disorders among many others.
The aforementioned is by no means meant to scare people because the fact of the matter is no amount of official bans or public awareness campaigns will stop people from wanting a temporary enjoyment of what they presume to be beauty, even if it means risking serious health problems in the long run, until we change the entrenched messages in our minds that black is inferior.
My fellow black women, we have to rise up and see our blackness as a gift, make our blackness into something we are proud of not something dictated to us by people who don’t have to and who will never live our lives for us. We are strong, beautiful, courageous black women, and something seemingly small as what we put on our skin and why we put it on can either make us or break us. Liberating ourselves from the internalized self-hate of our black skin is a gift we can only give ourselves and hence pass it on to our children and their children’s children.
Black is just extremely so beautiful. Look at the evening sky and how pitch black it is on a winter’s night with a hint of stars, it’s a breathtaking view, which is how our blackness shall be if we let it be. We, (Black women), are that beautiful dark sky, and the light of self respect, and belief in ourselves as a people are those stars.
It is a privilege to be born a black woman as noted in the quote by Maya Angelou, “I can’t believe my good fortune, I’m so grateful to be a Black woman, I would be jealous if I were anything else”. These words should repeat themselves in the mind of a black woman every day. Being black is good fortune and we should therefore be grateful and jealously guard our blackness. As we embrace our blackness we become living and breathing monuments to the fact that Black is indeed beautiful. Rise up young black woman and love your blackness! Maya Angelou appreciated being black with writing which follows:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still like dust I’ll rise
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide
Welling and swelling I bear the tide”
Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
CHIEDZA PRINCILY MANDINIKA
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