If you haven’t read the first part, you can find it HERE.
Rap & Hip Hop
Music is so powerful, and will probably always influence what many wear, drive, drink, think and say, so when an entire genre of music, makes multiple references to light-skin, yellow/red-bone, lighties, high-yella women, and mainly cast light skin black women in their music videos, it becomes somewhat of a staple for what beauty is.
Now before you jump into the whole preference debate, read the first part of this post, and research colorism a bit more, because this run’s deeper than that.
This is something that has gotten better over the years, with rappers including more dark skin women in their music videos, but just to give you a few examples of what kind of lyrics I’m talking about:
“I aint even been to sleep, so how I’m waking up early?/Top floor chilling with some light-skin girlies” -Young Jeezy,
“Poppin dropin God damn shawty who is this redbone with a scorpio tatted on her tummy, Im sittin slouched back in the chair stuntin waving money” – Ludacris
“E* a red bone like red velvet cake/eff a n* wife and eat the wedding cake” -Lil Wayne
“Robin jeans with the wings/Yellow bone on my team trafficking them ya-means” -Future
“If you talking ‘bout money, we can link up/Bad red bone b*tch body inked up” -Juicy J
“Light-skinned thick chicks, fellas call ’em redbones” -Ciara
These are just a few of many examples.
Most recently, dark skinned rapper, (and I use the term lightly), Kodak Black, caused controversy when he made this statement:
“I don’t like women with my complexion. I like light skin women. I want you to be lighter than me. I love African American women, but I just don’t like my skin complexion. My complexion, we too gutta. Light skin women…they more sensitive, Nah, nah, they (dark skin women) too tough. Light skin women, we can break ’em down more easy, you know what I’m saying? ”
Nah bruv… I actually don’t know what you’re saying.
Film & Television
Women like Halle Berry have had it easier to secure certain movie roles because of her lighter complexion. Don’t get me wrong, she’s extremely talented, and one of my favourite actresses, but colorism in Hollywood is no secret. If there’s just one role available for a black woman, more often than not, the one of lighter complexion will get the part.
I look back at some of my favourite films like Coming to America where Prince Hakeem, played by Eddie Murphy, rejects his arranged marriage, played by darker skinned Vanessa Bell Calloway, declines the advances of darker skinned Patrice McDowell, played by Allison Dean, only to fall in love with, and marry her sister, Lisa McDowell, played by a fair skinned Shari Headley.
Lisa is, of course, the perfect match for Hakeem, but it makes you wonder why they cast a light skinned woman to play the woman who ends up marrying a prince.
Now taking into account what was going on during slavery, colonial times, in popular culture and the daily lives of black families, the skin bleaching industry has been going quite strong.
According to this market research, by 2024, the global market for Skin Lighteners is projected to reach $31.2 billion. Despite health hazards, like skin cancer, the market doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down.
Some countries like Ghana, have put bans in place for skin bleaching products with active ingredients like hydroquinone (disrupts the synthesis and production of melanin). Not long after, the Ghanaian government’s chief officer in charge of putting the ban in place, during an interview at his office, expressed relief that his 3-year-old daughter’s skin is not as dark as his own. “Luckily,” said Emmanuel Nkrumah, “she’s lighter than me.”
So in other words, it is illegal to sell and use certain skin bleaching products, but there are still subliminal, as well as obvious messages being spread that ‘light is right,’ and dark is simply not beautiful, unlucky even.
In Asian countries like India, South Korea and Japan, the skin bleaching industry is thriving. One just has to look at Bollywood to see a clear underrepresentation of darker skinned Indian people.
Jamaican artist Vybz Kartel (pictured above), Lil Kim, Sammy Sosa and many more are public figures who have been known to bleach their skin. Plastic surgery is not uncommon amongst high profiled people, but there’s a reason why skin bleaching rubs many black people the wrong way.
This view that dark is unattractive, dirty and bad has been lingering for centuries across the globe. This idea that white is fresh, rich, clean, beautiful and well respected didn’t come from nowhere, and it’s sad to see this be reinforced by the people who bleach.
Every single black person I know, know someone who bleaches their skin and might even have bleached themselves at some point. I mentioned earlier that I have black friends who want to have mixed kids with the sole purpose of ensuring their kids are lighter than them, and very often, it’s encouraged by their parents.
I could write about all the times I’ve been out in the sun in Gambia and a fellow country man has asked me to get in the shade to avoid getting darker and uglier, but I think these last two posts are enough.
Define your own beauty, but please educate yourself on the dangers of skin lightening products, the psychological effects of calling someone too dark and the historical reasons why people wish to be lighter.
If you still wish to bleach after that, it’s your body. Just know that the skin you were born in is beautiful.
There’s beauty in strength.
/ Love Tima Ahimsa
I do not own any of the media in this post.
Here’s a post about hair texture discrimination.