By Denerele Animasaun
“Black women were created of brown sugar and warm honey. The sweetest thing to bless the earth. Be wary of anyone who tells you otherwise.” –Alexandra Elle
There is an undeniable fact that is true of Nigerians; they are black Africans. It is important to establish that fact.
And as Africans, in particular habiting the sub-Saharan region of the continent, Nigerians are black with possibly all different shades and hues of brown spectrum. Genetically as people, we are blessed with amazing skin so fine-tuned by evolution: to glisten and thrive under the African sun. The melanin has a protective factor for that reason and it is true, black does not crack the skin when not tampered with stay young for a long time.
So, when upstarts and benighted, vacuous individuals have the effrontery to promote and sell noxious potions to remove the very hues (cynically described as dark spot remover) that makes and protect the black skin, then it is important to call them out.
It is a disgrace and a big shame.
It is difficult to lay the blame squarely on the interloper without addressing the disease of colourism that pervades the nation. After all, 77% of Nigerians bleach their skin!
If not, why on earth, would make anyone think it is fine to come over and peddle this insult and shame in a jar to Nigerians.
It would have been better if they had come over to promote education, science or technology, we sure can use that. It will definitely uplift the nation to greater heights. In a nation with 88 million living in abject poverty, you would have thought, that what Nigerians needs right now, is how to be self-sufficient.
No, instead, the good time promoter and all round social butterfly, Blac Chyna was invited to come and peddle a skin-lightening cream that promises to give skin a “brightening glow” while users “retain luminosity”.
So in a nation, where an average Nigerian lives on less than a dollar a day, she is fronting this brand Whitenicious to release the product, which goes for $250 (£196) a tub. So, who in their right mind, can honestly buy this portion and how often can they afford to pay for it? Of course, it seems that many believe the hype: that it will revive their blackness and turn them lighter and whiter.
I have no intention aiding and abetting a free advert for this aberration; in fact I wrote about this some years back. (More later on).
For those, who do not know, the self-loathing of our dark skin goes far, far back and it is more than skin deep.
This self-hatred or the yearning for lighter or white skin is centuries old and it seeped in slavery and colonialism.
Colourism as defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group”.
Colourism is rooted in slavery: the slave owners would prefer treatment to slaves with fairer complexions.
While, the dark-skinned slaves toiled outdoors in the fields, their light-skinned counterparts usually worked indoors at far less gruelling domestic tasks.
Slave owners were partial to light-skinned slaves because they were often family members. Light skin slaves were a product of rape and of course, the light-skinned offspring were the tell-tale signs of these sexual assaults.
This light had privileges that the dark skin slaves were denied and over the years the mentality remains where many view this as lighter skin being superior to darker skin; it is seen as a passport to higher social class, better prospects and so on. Sadly this has been perpetuated as the norm.
It was heartening to see that there were voices of descent and protests repudiating the promotion of this bunkum portion.
They say the fool and his money are soon parted, so for those who are intent on joining the light brigade, a warning: buyers beware! There is no research and long-term use of any bleaching or lightening creams designed to make skin lighter has been linked to cancer, as well as kidney damage, blindness, and depression.
And people have accused Chyna of further perpetuating the idea that lighter skin is more desirable and better in a region where the regular use of skin-lightening products is already significantly high.
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 77% of Nigerian women, the highest percentage in the world, use skin-lightening products regularly. Skin bleaching is not unique to Nigeria alone, there are other countries around the world as well, such as India, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
A voice of reason: Actress and dancer Kelechi Okafor has criticised the new product online, which she called “damaging”.
She said the demand for skin-lightening products were “inextricably linked to colonisation and internalised inferiority complexes”. And she added: “If white supremacist patriarchal ideologies weren’t so successful we wouldn’t have the constant aspiration to be as closely linked aesthetically to whiteness.”
I wish others can be as perspicacious as Ms Okafor.
As for Chyna Black, it has been confirmed by her representative that she has been using the brand for years to treat her ‘hyper-pigmentation’ and wants to help other black women with similar skin issues”
It is about time, to call it what it is: bleaching is what it is and it is robbing the skin of its protective layer-melanin.
Brown is the new White
‘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
Look around you, if you have not noticed we now have an altered view of beauty; whitened, heavily made up, with large pneumatic chest, fake hair and with some concerning identity crisis. Nigeria has a serious societal problem and we need to face it.
For those who use this potion, they should beware, that there are damaging health consequences, which may not be apparent in the short term but it will eventually damage the largest organ of the body -the skin. The truth here is, whether, the user can justify their loss of pigmentations to cancers and serious skin conditions.
Frankly, these people are psychologically damaged and 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 and confidence.
We have a herd mentality and they often follow a trend without questioning the rationale; we always want what the others have without thinking of the consequences. 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 we think that these whitened people are better and should be given privileges as a result.
How can this be the example of beauty or the best of our women? Shame if this is the case.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been told it is not only a women only domain that men are into whitening too. This is a sad state of affairs, not only have we lost our moral compass, we are losing our identity and our skin colour? So where does that leave us, what messages are we sending to our young? We have become a country where image matters more than anything.
I have been told that Nigerian men prefer whiter looking black women and if this is the case, then the more fool they are.