Chinese as “honorary Whites” in Apartheid South Africa

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Krishna Vanstraelen

If assimilation theory seems to oppose the general trend for first generation Chinese migrant in recent years, it however sheds light and corroborates segmented assimilation theories for the second and third generations. The first wave of Chinese migrants in South Africa in the early 1900s has followed a so-called typical way of integrating a culturally foreign society. Though what drove Chinese migrants in South Africa to follow classic segmented assimilation theories is the succession of two distinct historical events, their entrepreneurship and desire to access the higher sphere of South African society, which is striking and somewhat unusual, given the political and social nature of the host country.

Much like current Chinese migrants to South Africa, first generation migrants tended to send their offspring to China, both to learn and preserve Chinese tradition and culture and to receive what parents viewed as a “proper” education. However, in the early 1950s, the Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act enacted by the newly established Communist Party, along with the strengthening of institutionalised apartheid in South Africa, made it increasingly difficult for Chinese to travel in and out of China, hindering thus education in the home country.

When examining the case of first, second, and third generations, Yoon Jung Park, the most cited scholar in this specific field, refers to them respectively as shopkeepers, fence-sitters, and bananas. Shopkeepers because these children born in the 1920s and 1930s usually received Chinese education, had little to no English proficiency, and typically ended up helping their parents as shopkeepers or working in unskilled or semi-skilled positions in factories, retail shops, or offices. Though second generation children as well, fence-sitters were born from the 1940s through the early 1960s, and were labelled as such due to an ambiguous identity.

Although growing in a climate separating whites and non-whites, Chinese migrants and their children were given concessions and privileges as their social status shifted progressively towards “honorary whites”. Hence, most Chinese children born during this time period attended private white church schools by means of a progressive loosening of discriminatory rules and heavy financial sacrifices made by their parents. Ineluctably, as children were gradually losing their Chinese language ability and increasingly conform to western culture, their identity and place in the South African society became equivocal.

Lastly, the bananas refer to the physicality of the fruit; yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Born in the late 1960s through the 1970s, these children had little to no experience of Apartheid-era discrimination, as Apartheid and its institutionalized rules were gradually fading away—at least for Chinese residents/citizens, who enjoyed a full primary and secondary education alongside white children in government and private white schools. As a result, most children of this generation developed a strong affiliation to western culture, low relations to China and its language, and an ever-growing number completing tertiary education allowing them to climb the social ladder (Park, 2009).

The crux of Chinese assimilation that trails segmented theories is found in the early 1950s, when regulatory rules hamper Chinese migrants to follow customary patterns in regards of their low integration and their offspring. When returning to their home country became less of an option, Chinese migrants generally estimated that providing their children with better/white education will facilitate and increase their social mobility. Through massive financial sacrifices and the withstanding of discriminatory rules and societal norms, parents of children born from the 1940s through the early 1960s (and onwards) were able to send them to white schools, allowing these children to access tertiary education and gain a foothold and recognition in the South African society.

Reference

Park, Y. J. (2009). A matter of honour: Being Chinese in South Africa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Marketing lighter skin in South Africa

by Yusuke Shiga

Lots of cosmetic companies have globalized their markets by using ingenious marketing strategies, and the number of consumers of these products has proliferated. Especially skin whitening products are purchased in many countries and the inclination for whiter skin is so prevalent, yet the causes of this social phenomenon are complicated. In this writing, I’d like to focus on this trend in South Africa.

In this complicated discourse, there are two main factors, social structure and marketing strategies, specifically advertisements. First of all, as for advertisements, companies have sold the products by highlighting their great effects on the skin with pictures of consumers who successfully achieved the whiteness and nice skin condition, and also emphasized that having whiter skin improve their dating and marriage prospect. In fact, the winners of beauty competition were chosen for the models of many advertisements and encouraged people to buy the products. Moreover, these ads stressed the healthy aspects, the commodities protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun and make your skin smooth or brighten. Most importantly, these ads said “manufactured for black by their brothers/sisters in U.S.”, this phrase tremendously encouraged them to use cosmetic products.

Concerns about social structure, racial hierarchy, and apartheid have played significant roles on seeking whiteness. The social stratification/class were determined by one’s racial category, and lower class, colored had limited access to occupation, education, housing, and so on. Therefore, for them whitening skin tone means racial uplift and getting chance to become wealthier. Within the society, white skin implicated modernity and progress, because during that time, not only wealthier people and whites but people who looking for better jobs migrated from rural area to urban area.

However, in the 1960s, an anti-skin whitening movement occurred, because black politicians and nationalists criticized this trend as “betraying the race.” They insisted to be proud of their skin color. Plus, the fact that scientists proved that ingredients in skin whitening products were harmful to skin fostered this anti-movement.

While after it was proven that using these products might cause serious skin troubles like “chubabas,” which are purpled patches of skin, some continuously put these chemicals on their skin. The struggle black Africans faced is depicted in the film “Skin” by Sandra Laing. This movie is based on a true story and shows the strong impact of the skin color in everyday life in South Africa. The ironic scene is that parents who are both white rejoiced to hear their child who had been recognized as colored before was authorized as white.

In my opinion, the main reason why these issues still persist is because there is possibility that you can move to higher class after using these products, even though you also have possibility of having “chubabas”. Especially, lower class tend to become addicted to cosmetics, due to the strong racial hierarchy in the society, and this “high-risk high-return” ideology has a powerful effect on whitening products addicts, I think. Yet, various elements are connected to this social matter, we need to analyze more from different perspectives.

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Skin Whitening as Social Uplifting and Achieving the Ideal “beauty”

by Moe Miura

There are many skin-whitening products in global markets today. One can easily purchase skin-whitening products even without knowing it, because whitening one’s skin tone is already a big phenomenon in the 21st century all over the world. However, South Africa has significant story about its history of the phenomenon of skin whitening.

In Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (2009), author Lynn M. Thomas focuses on the history and the use of skin lighteners in South Africa. Today, 35% of the South African women are said to be using the skin-whitening products. Then these questions pop up: why do South African women try to whiten their skin tone? Is there a history behind it?

South Africa is widely known for its history of apartheid, where black and colored people did not have the same political or economic rights as white people, and also were forced to live separately from white people. This policy led to the further discrimination of black and colored people, segregation, and the skin color preferences influenced by the European colonialism (Thomas, 2009). Thus it created the idea of lighter skin equals more liberty and less/no discrimination. Historically, the use of skin whitening products had a lot to do with the fact that there was a significant racial discrimination against black and colored people.

pictureAnother reason of using the skin lighteners was “technology of the self”, meaning people decorate themselves to transform themselves, so that they can achieve happiness or perfection. This can range from concealing blemishes to bleaching their faces. Advertisements have played a big role in informing people about this idea that whiter is more beautiful, using musical stars and beauty contest winners. Capitalism also pushed this idea because the more difficult the thing to achieve, the harder people try; concealing flaws and having lighter skin was difficult thus people would purchase more stuff to achieve this “ideal beauty”. The market of skin lighteners had become multimillion-dollar-per-year endeavor.

As it can be seen, reasons of South African women purchasing skin whiteners ranged from racial uplifting, capitalist commerce, to making themselves look better as a “technology of the self”.

Reference

Thomas, L. M. (2009). Skin Lighteners in South Africa. In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Skimming the surface of a little known migration

by Krishna Vanstraelen

When discussing international migration, many groups of immigrants came to mind; coming from Europe, I am myself familiar with a large immigration population being entirely or only partially part of the society I found myself in. Additionally, as I live in Japan, I am lucky enough to experience immigration from another angle, from the other end. In turn, the latter has helped me to understand to a greater extent issues and complains voiced by first, second, and even third generation immigrants back in my country. Yet, one particular group has peaked my curiosity from the onset; the case of Chinese migrants in Africa, and particularly in South Africa (as I have come to realise that the overwhelming majority of Chinese is found in South Africa (Park, 2009)).

The reason why the case of Chinese migrants in Africa caught my attention stems from my inability to have considered the latter phenomenon. As mentioned earlier, as a European, I viewed migration from a Western perception (i.e. Migration in Europe, United States, Australia, New-Zealand…). When I first heard about Asian migration to Africa, I was surprised. However, later, I found myself comparable to the narrow minded people I have encounter in my life having difficulties accepting or even considering international migration. My astonishment turned into frustration and I now believe it is a moral duty to increase my knowledge concerning the aforementioned focus.

South Africa has had 2 waves of Chinese immigration in the past and one currently happening. In the early 1900, Chinese families migrated to South Africa, approximately 10,000 individuals, followed by business motivated Taiwanese in the 1970s and 1980s (approximately 6,000). The current wave which has started since 1990s is sourcing from mainland China (over 500,000; Park, 2009).

Four categories can be depicted when examining Chinese immigrants to Africa: temporary labor migration linked to Chinese development and investment in Africa, small-time entrepreneurs, in-transit migrants, and agricultural workers (Politzer, 2008). The second group, small-time entrepreneurs, is currently gaining in popularity as an increasing number of mainland Chinese are migrating to South Africa in order to pursue self-employment dreams, experience a slower pace and comfortable life, an improved weather, and a healthier environment.

Though mostly found in urbanized area, Chinese migrants are increasingly settling in poorer rural areas where the economic sphere is minor or inexistent in order to maximize their benefits by taking advantage of further favourable economic situations. They tend to open shops where everything from clothing to travel accessories, from everyday household appliances to toys and games for children can be found (Park, 2009).

The Chinese migration to Africa and particularly to South Africa can be depicted likewise Edwin Lin’s analogy referring it to a “small pond migration” (2014). The analogy stems from the English idiom “Big fish in a small pond.” Though the idiom connotes a rather pejorative meaning, the small pond migration refers to migrants purposely choosing a lesser developed country where their human capital will foster their ability to take advantage of the social environment. The migrants’ ability to conduct unchallenged business through their comparative advantage confers them the title of Big fish in a small pound.

Chinese Migration to South Africa is characterised and made possible through social connections. Most recent migrants had relatives or friends present in South Africa that helped them accessing and facilitating their migration in the country

Reasons for Chinese to migrate to South Africa have been depicted as such: for adventure, for self-employment, and for a comfortable lifestyle. Perhaps the effect of globalisation, access to international media and contact with international parties have promoted a desire for adventure and experiencing a life outside China. Most Chinese migrants that have moved to South Africa describe lifestyle in China as chaotic and stressful. Hence, moving to South Africa not only allowed them access to a slower pace of life associated to their environment, but also to start a self-employment type of business that, in time, will grant them enough capital and resources to “sit back and relax”.

When discussing assimilation theory, the case of Chinese migrants in South Africa seems to oppose the general trend usually associated with migration. First, most Chinese migrants seem to move to South Africa with the clear intention to return to the mainland once their economic goals are met. Second, as their migration is firstly seen as temporary, most Chinese immigrants do not speak the local language and very few of them have English proficiency (most of them come from a lower social strata with limited education background). Time and motivation to learn a language that would ease their living in South Africa is hampered by their aforementioned assumption. Third, the crime rate and the Chinese target some gang seems to favour, has pushed Chinese migrants to adopt a life style with very little interaction with the local population and heavy withdrawal into their own community. Most of them do not go out after sunset, fearful of aggression and robbery. Chinese migrants do not see social structure as a medium or an alleviation of this issue as police seem to be corrupted and do not protect them as they should. Assimilation seem thus to be unlikely as very little social structure are in place to promote a safe environment. The premise most migrants hold in regards of returning to their home country after meeting their objectives is also an important drawback to their assimilation. Though Chinese South Africans have been living in the country for few generation (this will be extended in the second post), most recent Chinese migrants opt for sending their offspring back to china where family member would take care of them.

Transnationalism can be viewed and explained through a progressive migration of Chinese individuals following example of their relatives, friends or even clan and village members. Remittance, charity, and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are also part of the transnationalism phenomenon that reaches Chinese migrants in South Africa.

Racialization is common and affects immigrants in their assimilation endeavour. The label “Jews of the East” hamper Chinese to further commit to an assimilation progress as in most cases, they are treated as outsiders and often scapegoated as the reasons behind a society’s ills.

References

Lin, E. (2014). “Big Fish in a Small Pond”: Chinese Migrant Shopkeepers in South Africa. International Migration Review, 48(1), 181-215.

Park, Y. J. (2009). Chinese Migration in Africa. Occasional Paper No. 24, Johannesburg: South African Institute of International Affairs.

Politzer, M. (2008, August 6). China and Africa: Stronger Economic Ties Mean More Migration. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/china-and-africa-stronger-economic-ties-mean-more-migration

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Skin Lightening in South Africa

by Yutaro Nishioka

The trend of skin lightening, especially among women, is getting increasingly common all over the world, including South Africa, where the major part of its population is black. According to a study from the University of Cape Town, as many as one in three African women use bleaching products to lighten their skin.

Skin lightening products often create serious medical complications; many patients suffer from diseases caused by a combination of use of lightening products and sunlight (africa.com).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also mentioned the negative effects of some skin lightening products. Mercury, one of the common ingredients in lightening creams, is said to have harmful effects and could also lead to kidney damage, as well as other side effects such as “skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections” (africa.com).

Why is skin lightening becoming so common in South Africa despite its negative health effects? Professor Lynn Thomas, co-author of the book Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, mentions the history of South Africa being colonized by Europeans. The Europeans and South Africans were not treated equally, and there was the notion that light skin was somehow better, not much unlike Hitler’s idea that Jews were inferior. More recently, apartheid, the government policy of racial segregation against black Africans in South Africa, was renounced officially only in 1992.

The effects of the history of discrimination can still be seen in the current South African society. For example, Nomoto “Mahoza” Mnisi, a famous South African musician, is known for her extensive use of skin lightening products. She says, “I just want to be light skinned… I was tired of being ugly.” She is assuming that dark skin is “ugly” and light skin is not.

People that have heard of this news have reacted differently, but the majority of the comments on the internet do not seem to approve of her changed appearance: “she was so much prettier before; her husband must be blind”, “God created her black and she looked so pretty. She looks pretty now but she looked better before”, “She is insecure and that’s bad.”

As there is a difference between Mahoza’s view and that of her fans, it is questionable to say that the history of the colonization and discrimination is the sole cause of the contemporary trend of South Africans’ skin lightening, but it is probably one of the factors that have contributed to the trend.

Reference

“Not Happy Being Black?” – Posted by Africa.com Editorial Staff. http://www.africa.com/blog/not-happy-being-black/

Thomas, Lynn M. 2009. “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self.” Pp. 188-210 in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Environmental Racism – A problem with no visible solution

Save our water

Save our water (Photo credit: uusc4all)

by Jonas Horvei

The world as we know it is still very much an unequal society.  It is unequal because how others will treat us in our lives is already to a certain extent pre-determined on the day when we are born. Where we are born, our nationality, our family’s background, one’s looks, and the color of one’s skin and so on all plays different in how others will perceive and treat you. A few weeks ago I learned of another new concept related to inequality and discrimination called “Environmental Racism”. According to the USlegal (2013) definition, environmental racism can be defined in the following way:

Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities. (2013, USLegal)

Hand in hand with the concept of environmental racism, we also have the concept of environmental justice. In short, environmental justice can be said to be a movement’s response to solve the issues of environmental racism. It is more or less a social movement who strives to put an end to environmental racism, or at the very least to create a more even distribution of both the benefits and burdens.

According to the basic principles of Environmental justice, the movement strives towards the following goals:

  • For everyone to be protected from environmental harm
  • The elimination of environmental threats
  • That everyone has the freedom to participate in environmental decision making

Whether it is possible to realize these ideals or not is a completely different question. What we can conclude so far though is at least, that social movements such as these do help, and they do have results. Pellow and Brulle (2007) describe in one article how the environmental justice movement has been able to fight against cases of environmental racism in the United States. They describe first how researchers managed to provide conclusive evidence that there was in fact a large bias in hazardous waste sites being located in communities where the majority of the citizens were minority groups. Through years of long battles the environmental justice movement helped stop the construction of over 300 garbage incinerators in the United States just in the period short period from 1985-1998. At the same they also influenced the large decline of municipal waste and medical incinerators also in the United States.

In such cases, we can clearly see that social movements do provide a very important element on the local level to stop the construction of sources of hazardous emissions. They highlighted the issues of environmental racism, and the dangers associated with chemical waste incinerators. Without the environmental justice movement, it is hard to say what the situation would be like, but it is evident that social movements do help.

As can be observed, the movement of environmental justice in America has had a strong impact on American society and has had a positive effect, whereas many of the most hazardous polluters have either been shut down or forced to relocate, and has made it difficult in the creation of new such polluting sources in America. Nevertheless even with such incredible results achieved, I cannot help but having this pessimistic view that there is still a long way to go and that future outlook certainly might not exactly be optimistic as many are to believe.

Then comes the problem, what do we actually do with the waste? With larger volumes of waste being produced, where do we put it, what do we do it? We put it somewhere else and ignore the problem. In my opinion, it seems like we are simply witnessing a relocation of the problem itself, that is to say that the problem is instead being transferred to somewhere else. Due to the influence of globalization, more and more industries take the leap abroad, often to developing countries. In such countries not only are labor costs cheaper, the emission restrictions are often much more relaxed. As a result the developed country can remove its pollution problem from its own border, while at the same time gaining profit from not having it in locating it their home country. So even if we might see an improvement in terms of hazardous waste and pollution in our local culture, it does not necessarily mean that the problem has disappeared. In fact in many cases it is highly likely just that it has simply been relocated somewhere else. America does it, Japan does, China does it, even Norway does it, and every country is guilty of it. For instance you have the case of Thor Chemicals, Inc, who during the 1980s moved its mercury reclamation processing facility from the corporation’s home in England to a village in South Africa. (Harper, Rajan 2004, p.3) Cases on international scale where the Northern countries move production, or move the waste disposal to southern countries are unfortunately far too common.

Then what is the solution to environmental inequality and environmental racism? Environmental emissions, pollution and hazardous waste are some of the biggest problems we are facing on a worldwide scale. There is no easy fix, it is as simple as that. Stricter restrictions, finding more environmental friendly solutions, raising awareness of the problem, and stopping making companies benefit from polluting rather than operating environment-friendly are some of the solutions off the top of my head. That is how we I believe we can minimize the problem. As long as issues of environmental pollution exist, inequality will also exist. As sad as it may sound, this is a natural part of human nature, we discriminate against those who are different. As long as we can get away with it, we discriminate, and as long as it remains more profitable to dump waste in neighborhoods with minority groups, or shipping off tons of waste to the Philippines or Bangladesh, environmental inequality will persist, without taking into account the health of other human beings that do not belong in our local environment.

References

Harper, Rajan. “International Environmental Justice: Building the Natural Assets of the World’s Poor.” University of Massachusetts, August 2004. Web 18.December. 2013. http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP87.pdf

Brulle, Pellow. “Poisioning the planet: the struggle for environmental justice” the American sociological association, 2007. Web 18 December. 2013.

Women’s Consciousness of Skin Lighteners in Japan

by Mai Kusakabe 

In South Africa, there are a lot of women who want to make their skin color lighter because they try to get better status and become more attractive. Then, how about Japanese women? What are they thinking about their skin color? Actually, we can see a lot of cosmetics and drugs to make their skin lighter in pharmacy. So in order to reveal what they are thinking, I did questionnaire about skin color, and ask ten Japanese girls answer it.

girls

 

The first question of my questionnaire was which girl do you prefer, and which is more attractive for you? And why do you feel the girl is more attractive?

Nine out of ten girls answered that they like or want to be a girl on the left, who looks Caucasian. Another girl said she liked the middle one, who looks more Japanese. She said middle one seems the healthiest of the girls. Most girls have the same answer, and the reason why they choose left girl is almost the same, because she has white skin! She looks Caucasian! So she looks beautiful!

The second question was have you ever used skin lighteners? And do you do any efforts to make your skin lighter?

To this question, every one answered Yes. This result is kind of interesting. Every girl seeks to get lighter skin somehow, for example, using face lotion and take a supplement including a component to make skin white and using sunscreen to prevent their skin from ultraviolet rays. Thus usually Japanese girls do something to keep or improve their skin color.

The third one is do you use a sunscreen? Yes or No. And for the person who answered Yes, is it for which reason, for health or for keeping lighter skin? Two girls answer No, and the rest answer Yes. Five of them said it is for keeping lighter skin, two of them said for both and one said for health.

The fourth one is why do you do such efforts? Why do you want to be lighter skin? There are two types of answer of this question. First type is that they think or believe white skin is beautiful. Second type is that they said everyone insist white skin is beautiful, so I think so too. The biggest differences between two are their opinion influenced by others or not.

So what kind of factors influence Japanese girls’ opinions of skin color? The options are TV, advertisements of cosmetics, magazines, the Internet, status, public opinion and other. The choice which attracted most votes is TV (six points), following public opinion, magazines (four points), advertisements (three points), the Internet (one point). And there is no vote to status. From this result, we can understand that most people don’t realize that there is connection between skin color and status in Japan, for example trying to get lighter skin is to become more attractive, this is kind of trying to get better status. In addition their idea that white skin is beautiful is mostly influenced by media. One girl said my favorite model has white skin, so I want to get white skin like her. Indeed popular models and actress have lighter skin, and many girls long to be like them. Lighter skin has come to one of major factors to be like admired woman.

Thus, as we can see from this questionnaire, Japanese girl prefer lighter skin. And most of them do some efforts to make their skin lighter, for example, about 70% of girls use sunscreen for keeping their skin color lither. They don’t think it’s for their health, just for their own beauty. They regard white skin as beautiful. The biggest factor of their preference of skin color in Japan is media which give us images of popular models and actress who have lighter skin that makes us long to be like them, and give us impression that lighter skin can get more popularity and attractiveness. The important thing is that it is not always right. Sometimes it makes us wrong decision. So we need to judge whether it is right or not.

Mzungu and Colorism in Africa

by Miho Tanaka

Reading “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self (2009)” by Lynn M. Thomas, I was reminded of and reflected on my experiences in Africa. It was inconsiderable that South African care so much about their skin color even though skin lighteners sometimes bring problems to their skin.

However it is true that the people I met in Kenya put value on light skin and they connect it with high social status very much. The other internship students from Europe, the United States, and Asia and I were called Mzungu by Kenyans. I saw Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans, Americans, Brazilians, Swedes and Germans all called Mzungu. Mzungu is the Swahili word that describes rich and White people from African people’s perspectives. More specifically, not only Caucasians but also people from developed countries with light skin of color are Mzungu. It seems that many Swahili-speaking countries use the term Mzungu, as some websites and blogs show on the internet (Hoff n.d.; Duara 2008). Both Hoff and Duara write that Mzungu is used in central and Southern Africa. When I visited Rwanda this summer Rwandan also called us Wazungu, the plural way to call Mzungu.

Interesting are those African people who are eager to have networks or connections with Mzungu people. For instance, while I and the other internship students were in a community in Kenya and belonged to a Community Based Organization, some Kenyans suddenly joined the organization and many HIV-positive people started to attend our meetings as well. However according to local members in Kenya, they began to be absent from meetings after all of the Wazungu left. However, some of them have tried to maintain their connections with Wazungu. Most importantly, they strongly connect idea of economic and social status mobility with being Mzungu. If they could have been married with a Mzungu woman or man, they would not have to be in trouble of impoverished in Africa anymore. They would be able to get out of their homeland and have a better life.

Considering the case of South Africa, the tendency that they would like to have lighter skin color must be much higher than the other countries since they were harshly segregated by skin color during the period of apartheid. Even though they might have skin troubles from using skin lighteners, upward mobility would be more important for them since it would determine their entire life and success. Therefore, they care more about their skin tone rather than their health. However the status in South Africa must be changed since the abolition of apartheid. Nowadays there are poor Whites going begging in South Africa, and it also might be a factor that changes preference of white or light skin. I suppose the tension between Mzungu and Black Africans, which connects social upward mobility with light skin color, would not change because Black Africans regard Mzungu as coming from totally different background and statuses. However, it might create new black movement as their economic status changes with economic growth.

References

Duara, D. (July, 19th 2008). The Mzungu term : get it right! Retrieved on November, 22nd 2013 from http://pernille.typepad.com/louderthanswahili/2008/07/the-mzungu-te-1.html

Hoff, W. (n.d.). Mzungu Design. Retrieved on November 22nd 2013 from http://www.mzungudesign.com/welcome/

Thomas, M. L. (2009). Skin lighteners in South Africa: transnational entanglement and technologies of the self. In Glenn, N. E. (Ed.), Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Dark and light skin as fashion

by Emina Miki

From this week’s presentation, I realized interesting similar situation between South Africa and Japan. In South Africa, they tried to have lighter skin by using skin lightener, in contrast, in the past in Japan a lot of young girls tried to have darker skin by using cosmetics. Their ideal skin colors are different from each other, but it is same that they try to be different skin color from their natural skin color.

In about 2000, there were a lot of young people especially girls with darkened skin and white lips in Shibuya, Tokyo. They changed their hair to gold, burned dark their skin again and again at the tanning salon and put on almost same figures because that style was the vogue at that time. Japanese young women would think darker skin is more beautiful as same as that South Americans have thought lighter skin is beautiful. Moreover, Japanese women painted their eyes using pens. In general, young Japanese girls with dark skin have been called “yamanba” ironically. “Yamanba” means the ugly old woman who lives in the heart of a mountain. However, they didn’t change their figures. On the contrary, they made a community and one culture at that time. The center of the trend was absolutely people with dark skin. So this age ended cause of the current of the time, but in South Africa they banned to use skin lighter because that was bad for face and they might lose pride in being black. I think this is a big difference between them. In Japan, though there were some people who don’t like their looks and their looks caused a lot of fuss, it wasn’t punished. Actually I thought they lost their natural identity because the face after making up and tanning was too different from the face without makeup. Also they didn’t want to make appearance in natural face, but people with dark skin were some of Japanese, so it might not ban their behavior.

In conclusion, I think the use of skin lighter in South Africa was considered as bad thing to face and the product which was promoted of hating the color of their skin, so many opposition movements occurred there. In contrast, young women’s behavior such as tanning their skin and painted their face by pens was considered as just the vogue. So I thought many people have thought that it would end in the near future though their behavior affected their healthy bodies.

The appeal of skin lighteners in South Africa: a racial and gender issue

by Joana Ito

In 1991, most skin lighteners were banned from the South Africa’s market, as a result of the Black movements’ criticism against the structural racism, allied to the arguments of health concerns. However, as a report of UNEP showed in 2008, the racial and medical arguments were not sufficient to erase the appeal of the skin lighteners: 35% of the women in South Africa were still regular users of skin lightener products.

The racial/color discrimination element regarding the use of skin lighteners can be clearly identified, as the lighter skin is valued more, while the darker skin is considered less desirable. For that reason, consumers of skin lighteners in South Africa are in many occasions described as “sellouts”, who act against the interests of black as a whole, by denying their own “blackness”; and often accused of committing “racial betrayal”. It is relevant to note however that, as the consumption of skin lighteners is concentrated in the female population, the discussion around the use of these products cannot be limited to the issue of political awareness of race, nor in terms of racial pride and shame.

The behavioral change regarding the use of skin lighteners faces many obstacles, as the appeal of these products is based on multiple factors. According to Thomas (2009), the use of skin lighteners is mostly related to utilitarian motivations (such as for better social position, job and marriage opportunities) and to abstract perceptions of beauty, influenced by both traditional pre-colonial values, and the values rooted in the historical past of colonization, segregation and apartheid. Consequently, when the question of the use of skin lighteners is presented in narrow terms of white-black discrimination, it may exclude the consideration of constraints and limitations that many of those women could face, if they were not to confirm to the socially constructed ideals of beauty. According to Glenn (2008), while men are more likely to be considered valuable when they have wealth, education and other forms of human capital, women are considered valuable when they are physically attractive, even if they lack other capital. For that reason, the relative cost to “not betray the race” and not use skin lighteners, in this case, can be considered higher for black women, as their life opportunities may be more affected by the beauty standards of their society.

To modify the individual perceptions of self-esteem and pride regarding their own race is a first step to tackle the remaining racial discrimination challenges in South Africa. Nevertheless, when the parameters of physical attractiveness and beauty defined by the society can strongly influence the life opportunities of the women, the problem is not only about race, but also about gender. If the aesthetic parameter (determined by a male dominated society) were less relevant to determine the social position and value of these women, wouldn’t they feel less compelled to use skin lighteners and have more incentive to become more “loyal” towards their own race?

References:

Glenn, E. N. (2008). Yearning for lightness: Transnational circuits in the marketing and consumption of skin lighteners. Gender & Society, 22(3), 281-302.

Thomas, L. (2009). Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Commodities and Technologies of the Self.” In Evelyn Nakano Glenn, ed., Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters. Palo Alto: Stanford University of Press, 188-209.

UNEP (2008). Mercury in products and wastes. Geneva, United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Chemicals Branch.