Dear Sede Alonge,
I am writing this letter in response to the article, "Not all women believe black is beautiful-And that's okay." I am a 23 year old, first generation Black Brit who is a Co Founder and Chief-Editor of ISIS Mag- A Natural Hair and Holistic Health Publication. To me and hopefully my readers (youngest age 7), self-love and a sense of pride in loving who you are means everything to me and that is a message I endeavour to portray on every page of ISIS Mag. Your article was brought to me by one of my young supporters (age 14) who felt a way about this article and consequently there are a few things I'd like to address regarding it.
Firstly, it's disheartening to learn that millions of women use lightening creams across Africa. I'm not sure about you, but to me, it seems that "these women" may suffer from issues regarding self- love and appreciation. I also have to disagree with your statement that,
I'm afraid this is not entirely the case. The issue at hand runs much deeper than choice (which to some extent, we've been conditioned to believe). I'm sure you are aware that there is great historical depth going as far back as slavery when women, men and children on plantation fields were separated by skin tone, hair texture, and eye colour. Division created by the slave masters and further reinforced into the minds of our mothers and their children and their children's children has its traces trickled down into our DNA right up until today. We can accept this occurred in our past and to overcome this would be through education and by correcting the little mistakes some of our mothers and WE still make today when we say, "she looks beautiful for a dark skinned person", "my child has beautiful fair skin", or "why are you so black?". As you live in Nigeria you probably have a better insight on the situation regarding bleaching today than I may ever have, however from what I understood, the issue with bleaching appears to be reinforced in 3 ways; economically (through the commerce of bleaching products), socially (through the opinions of our men and discussions they have) and psychologically (through the images we see presented to us on TV and in Magazines).
Secondly, you also mentioned that,
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin with this statement (bear in mind my response would be based on my experience living in Britain). Even before a white child is born, they are ready. Ready in regards to the tools that they will have to help with their confidence. The fairy tales and books they will read will provide them with representations of themselves. In these books they are told they are princesses, their prince charming will save them. Their hair is beautifully blonde and eyes as blue as the sky. The TV programs or news bulletins they will view portrayals of themselves predominantly in a light of success and achievement (in comparison to our race) and the dolls they will play with will not look "hideous". However, this is not to say that white people do not have their own internal battles and questions of what beauty is to them. They too have their own struggle where they are constantly bombarded with images of perfection and this is dangerous because to strive for this will only lead to disappointment.
Unfortunately I am not educated enough to comment on their struggle but I can empathise. Moreover, what I am saying is that our situation and experience cannot be concisely compared since our cultural, historical and geographical situation is significantly unique in its own way.
So where are we today Mrs Alonge?
Today Africans are not the only race bleaching their skin. Our sisters in India and China are also facing the same battles on beauty that lighter is better. In India, the situation is apparently so deep that whitening cream are being used to make the vagina "look more attractive" (see article below). Just look at the examples below of the celebrities in India who have become successful. Don't they look significantly close to white skin?
From left to right: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Bipasha Basu & Sonam Kapoor
We have to come together to tackle this "learnt" behaviour through providing products that cater to us in our original state. If we can achieve this now through the creation of our own dolls, magazines and our own media I strongly believe that slowly, there will be a decline in the idea of lightening our skin. The natural hair culture, not movement(in my opinion) has shown that through the rejection of perming products, companies have experienced a dramatic decline in sales and are now choosing to jump on the bandwagon by providing products for women with natural hair. The people high up do not care about how we feel inside, their focus is staying in the black, so we have to create tools of validation for ourselves. We also need to remember that *bleaching is not a "female" issue*. Men of all races are bleaching and as such, they should be involved in discussions regarding bleaching too. To disregard their struggles would mean that we are not dealing with the issue on a whole.
From left to right: Sammy Sosa & Vybz Kartel
Finally, in regards to the African diaspora (which I can relate to) when discussions regarding the use, necessity and benefit of Melanin (which is not just a pigmentation that protects our skin from the sun but has many health and spiritual benefits) is being taught, I believe we will be moving forward in the right direction. I do hope to hear from you soon, Written with love and compassion Linda Graham x