Africa: An Unfortunate Reminder That Dark Skin Is Still 'Not Beautiful'

24 October 2017

"You are pretty for a dark-skinned girl"

"What does that mean?"

"Because dark-skinned girls are just unattractive and ugly. If you were a little bit lighter, you would be a goddess"

At first, I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. This wasn't the first time that I had heard someone equate dark skin to unattractiveness.

Growing up, I remember being taunted and teased for having darker skin. Some people will even refer to you as 'that dark one' as if you don't have a name. As I grew up, I began to find uniqueness in my own beauty.

So what drives this obsession with lighter skin?

It is sad to see that even in 2017 only fair skin is considered beautiful. You hardly see a darker-skinned girl on billboards or advertisements for clothing or beauty products. If a darker tone girl is on beauty cosmetics adverts - sadly it's for a lightening cream.

Why does this prejudice over skin colour still exist? Lighter skin is often preferred to darker skin. With no thanks to the media and its influence on what is seen as beautiful. This advertising is shameful and irresponsible in a world where we have a fair population of brown and dark skinned people. This perception that the fairer you are, the more successful you become, either socially, economically and romantically is disturbing.

Recently, personal care brand Dove made headlines for an advertisement widely criticised as racist. In a video, a black woman is portrayed as morphing into a white one, with the body wash prominently positioned in the foreground. Many people were deeply upset. Some were furious. It created enough of an uproar for Dove to come forward and issue an apology - but it's not the first time Dove has come under fire. A 2011 Dove advert showed a "before and after" picture, where women became progressively whiter, also came under intense scrutiny.

Nivea is the latest personal care brand to face strong social media backlash for an ad deemed racially-insensitive. The advert featured a black actress using the product, with a voice-over explains how it will restore her skin to its natural fairness. The woman is then complimented by a man for having beautiful skin. These adverts are very unfortunate and real reminders that dark skin is still seen as a liability around the world, especially in Africa.

It's really interesting to see the way caucasians are treated like gods and it's no surprise that people bleach their skins. People who bleach project their insecurities on the society to change the narrative. You bleached because you thought you were not good enough as a black person.The preference for a lighter skin is so firmly entrenched, to the extent that the majority of men say they would prefer a lighter-skinned wife. And where does this leave us - the dark-skinned woman.

Whilst these companies are making huge profits from the bleaching creams they fail to inform us of the side effects. Skin-lightening has some negative physical side effects - cancer aside, bleaching creams can cause rashes, itchy and flaky skin and permanent scarring. Being fairer may have make you feel beautiful for a while, but it will damage your skin from all the harsh chemicals found in bleaching creams. Bleaching creams weaken the skin's elasticity, making it thinner and more fragile. Why would you do that to yourself?

Many people say black is beautiful, yet why do some black women and men want to look white? We can make a difference in this world when we begin by changing our mindset. Black becomes beautiful when we accept our blackness. Being black is unique and beautiful.

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