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Skin Lightening, Identity Crisis: Are These Really The Issues?

I am a black-skinned girl. No, not the brown-skinned girl you’ve heard about in songs and poems. This girl is black. Or so my mother says. She’d watch me from a distance and say, “ei Nana Akua, as for you, you’re too dark.” And then I’d tell her I like being the beautiful black-skinned girl. Believe me it took quite a while to arrive at this mentality, but how many other women are there yet?

Before I go on let me explain something to you. My father was kind of like the United Nations, you know, bringing various nations and tribes together so that I have siblings of various descents and therefore, various skin colors. Among my siblings, especially those I grew up with, I may have been one of the darkest.

As a child, I remember mommy scolding me whenever she found me standing in the sun: “You continue to stand in the sun; your skin will become the color of charcoal,” she’d tell me, “Go and have a quick bath.”

Having a bath twice a day doesn’t just make you clean, according to mommy, it makes your skin “fair.” This still makes me laugh as it brings to mind, the FOKN BOIS song, “I want to be white.” Apparently, black people only take baths to be white.

As I got older the situation got no better. In secondary school, my friend Phoebe, (who was very light-skinned) and I walked past the boys’ dormitory block. A boy from one of the dormitories yelled, “Fresh girl.” Both of us flattered, begun to giggle and smile. This is when the boy spoils everything by going on to say, “Nah no be the black one we dey talk, e be the fair one.” I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. From this point on, I stayed out of the sun and took three showers a day. So naturally, the perception I had about skin colour was that the lighter your skin, the prettier you were. That is, until I matured.

But let’s look at the situation through very different lenses. Are women trying to be white by lightening their skin? When pale white and porcelain skin women try to get tans, it is not because they are trying to become black. It’s a perception of beauty which funny enough does not apply to men.

Let’s go as far back as the Disney stories. The princesses were fair and the princes were tall, dark and handsome.  Recently, actresses in Ghana have come under fire for allegedly lightening their skin. Many people put this phenomenon in the race basket and say that people who lighten their skin are trying to become white but from where I am standing, she who lightens her skin is no different from you with small breasts who puts on a padded push-up brassiere, relax your hair or put on six-inch heels because you naturally stand at five foot, two-inches.

We say we want to be the best we can be, but what if our current standing isn’t the best we can be? I would never dream of lightening my skin, and I do not have relaxed hair but I would never judge anyone for doing these things because through their eyes, undergoing changes such as these make them the best they can be.

Once you recognize and understand the risks yet still want to change to make you more confident or for whatever reason, then please by all means go ahead.

I think the campaigns against skin bleaching should focus on shedding light on the risks and little things one doesn’t have time to read and look out for when we buy our “something-claire” and not chastising people who bleach.

What do you think?




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