By Denrele Animashaun
‘I’m black, I don’t feel burdened by it and I don’t think it’s a huge responsibility. It’s part of who I am. It does not define me. – Oprah Winfrey
Say it loud, I am black and proud;sang James Brown. The song carried so much weight and when you sang the song, you believed it. It meant so much to hear that when I was growing up. It was a time when race and colour was wrestled out of the hands of those who systematically defiled and oppressed the whole black race and wrote us off as inferior.
Unfortunately, some of us carry the complex and scar till today and merely pass the inferior complex from our generation to the next. We need to break this chain of self-hatred and identity crisis.
And yet, there was a time when we did take back our pride, dignity and affirmed that we were, who we are; black and jolly well proud to be black. In Nigeria, then we went better than that, we hosted FESTAC in 1977 to showcase Black peoples’ achievements and our rich heritage.
The world sat up and took notice and we truly inspired Africans and Diasporas alike. That now it seems so long ago, as Nigeria tops the league of skin lightening users in the world.
A recent World Health Organization report has revealed that Nigerian women are the biggest users of skin-lightening products. The study revealed that 77 percent of women bleach their skin. Togo came second with 59 percent and Senegal third with 27 percent. So, according to the report, nearly 8 out of 10 Nigerian women bleach their skin.
So there are unscrupulous people capitalizing on the gullible and their insecurities. They are laughing all the way to the bank. They peddle this whitener and laud it as the solution to life’s obstacle and the panacea to success. So this young talentless musician, attention seeking musician has put Nigeria, again on the map (for the wrong reasons)with her brand of whiteners products and she is living advert for this product.
Dencia, before, was a pretty black girl, who for the reason known only to herself decided to go white from head to toe. Now she wants to get more black sisters to do the same even when she admits that her products have not been scientifically examined and approved and what if they get cancer? She glibly said, “People can also catch cancer just by breathing!” She does not care much who uses her products or what they do with it, she said. So I am sure she is not bothered if those using her products get cancer. All she is concerned about is how many units she can sell and how rich it can make her. If we accept whitening as a choice we run the risk of normalizing a trend that has serious implication on the health of the nation and its psyche.
Look around you, if you have not noticed we now have an altered view of beauty; whiten, heavily made up, with large pneumatic chest, fake hair and with a serious identity crisis. Nigeria has a serious societal problem and we need to face it.
For those who use this potion, they should beware there are health consequences, which may not be apparent in the short term but it will eventually and perhaps they could justify their loss of pigmentations to cancers and serious skin conditions. These people are psychologically damaged that they do not understand that they cannot buy acceptance by changing their skin. It would be more prudent to work on their self-esteem rather than, who people think they should be.
We have a herd mentality and they often follow a trend without questioning the rationale; we always want what the other have. You name it; we want it, be it the latest car, jet, appliances, the largest party, the biggest hair, clothes and now this, extreme change of skin colour. Our society has a misplaced sense of beauty if these whitened people are put on a pedestal and has an example of what is beautiful and best of our women. Don’t get me wrong, I have been told it is not only women domain that men are into whitening too. We seriously have a societal problem.
I have been told that men like whiter looking black women or so we are made to believe. They also say that in order to be successful, that you have to be fairer that darker people cannot make it. I beg to differ. Tell that to Naomi Campbell, Bianca, Alek Wek, or Pattie Boulaye, the star of BISI THE DAUGHTER OF THE RIVER or recently the darling of the film world actress Kenyan, Lupita N’yongo of the 12 YEARS A SLAVE IS DARK, savvy, striking, ambitious and strikingly beautiful.
We are always seeking acceptance from those around us to justify our existence. This trend is disturbing and as black people, in a black country we should understand that it is damaging to our very existence as a race and as people. For those who are unaware of our shared history, it seem that many are ignorant, uneducated, deluded and brain washed to believe that white is better and being black is something to be ashamed of.
It will be unfair to blame the self-loathing on European colonialism alone, as prior to that in some communities in Asia, feel that the fairer you are the superior you are and that dark skins are from the peasant or untouchables and the white complexion are from the ruling classes. So no wonder some people go through lengths to move up and better their lot.
For these deluded people, they should look back into the history of slavery or the history of colonization to understand where their opposition to self-acceptance comes from. The systemic negative perception of dark skin is not only about our past but also the propagation by the media on favoring white as being best and black as being bad. Nigerians are not alone in this the same in Thailand, India and China. The same happened in Rwanda, where tribes were pitted against each other by their colonial master. The resulting genocide was very much rooted in skin colour.
The way we ourselves view our perception of beauty fans the continuance of these groundless beliefs by repeatedly presenting and upholding one ideal standard of beauty.