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These figures seem unusually high, but even if they’re overblown the problem is more than just cosmetic, it is culturally destructive. Will we manage to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery (to paraphrase Bob Marley) or will the problem eventually just go away as the world turns beige from increased interracial marriage?
It’s going to take a long time for the latter to happen, so we’ve got no choice but to do the former, because most Africans are dark-skinned, and we have to see the beauty in that for our own psychological well-being. v=Wm9p EWIPjks Self-hatred We were taught to hate ourselves through centuries of the slave trade (Arab and trans-Atlantic) and the colonial period that followed, and we are still being taught to hate ourselves through a Western consumer culture that is sold through today’s global media.
By and large, though, Africans used shared culture, language and traditions, rather than skin tone, as a means of identification.
Part of the process of creating a European empire was to define the European self in contrast to everyone else.
This internalised form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realise it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others.
Thus, for instance, black guys (not only in Africa) think their attraction to light-skinned girls is just a matter of taste, and some who lighten their skin can’t articulate why they do so beyond saying that it’s just prettier, as though skin lightening were akin to putting on lipstick.
Our thinking seems to be: the darker we are, the more ‘African’ we are, which wouldn’t be a problem if some of us didn’t think there was something wrong with being African. And many of those who don’t go in for skin-lightening also tacitly accept the idea that lighter is better (particularly if it comes with European, rather than African, features), so we’re all part of a system that promotes self-hate.
When people defend skin-lightening/bleaching by saying what people do to their skin is their own business, it’s usually a sign that they too value lighter skin over dark skin, whatever their own skin tone. What else is one to conclude when you have someone like South African kwaito star Mshoza proudly stating that she started undergoing skin-lightening and plastic surgery because she was “tired of being ugly”?
These products are also used in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Tanzania.Thus the feelings of inferiority created by the condition of being enslaved permeated even deeper.Today Black people in America were repeatedly told that everything about them was evil, ugly and unwanted.It’s a matter of identity, self-worth and self-acceptance that, in some respects, is even existential.The legacy of slavery and colonialism There is some evidence of colourism (system of privilege, discrimination and hierarchies based on social meanings attached to skin tone) in Africa before contact with Europeans in the 16th century.
As Africans, we freed ourselves and won our independence, but psychologically we continued to view ourselves through the lens of whiteness.