Skin Lighteners and Racial Betrayal

by Minako Sanda

After World War II, South African companies began to manufacture skin lighteners that were aimed for African dark-skinned women in and out of their country. Although the South African population is mainly divided into four categories (European, Asiatic, mixed and other colored, and native people), the special encouragement of the companies to use skin lighteners flourished in the market, especially in urban areas. Young women in such areas were remarkably enthusiastic to lighten their skin in terms of getting the urbane appearance, I assume it happens in elsewhere of the world’s most urban areas that people define beauty by showing what they can afford, to elevate their position to a higher social status. These people used skin lighteners not merely to make them look whiter, but some of them simply wish to eliminate their blemishes on face, some wanted to fix their sun-damaged skin, and others just wanted to have smoothing effect on their skin. However, disagreed to such a big trend of skin lighteners, two types of critiques on skin lightening products existed among South African society. One is that African political leaders who are mainly consisted by male nationalists say that the use of skin lightning is a racial betrayal against “black is beautiful” or ”the black movement”. At that time in 1970’s, according to marketing survey, such approach from ‘black pride’ was recognized, however, the number of people who want to buy skin lighteners were similar to the number of people who said they don’t buy because they are proud of their skin color.

The interesting point in here is that it’s only taking a serious look at black becoming whiter as ‘racial’ issue. If changing your original features of your race were thought to be race betrayal, no one would hardly see any of beauty products making such a huge amount of money in this global world. Race betrayal is happening in many ranges, like EMINEM being more like black while South Asian females encouraging plastic surgeries. The preference of white people getting bronzed by tanning should be, in the extent of a pure white race, a betrayal act. One another thing I thought was that making black people willing to change their appearance by lightening their skin or straightening their hair, happened to be one-way direction of marketing on them; if not tanning for black, then go for lightening.

It is sad to think that most of the features we see in beauty were created, or at least manipulated by marketing companies. I’m shocked to see people sell whatever they want to sell, and people buy whatever they get to satisfy their belief in beauty, and how powerfully affect own health. Similar to the topic, I disagree with wearing high-heels. They might make my legs nice and long for now, but there is no evidence that the preference in heels will remain in 30 years later. This can be same as skin lighteners, colored contact lenses, hair products and nearly every products made by a fixed idea of beauty.

It seems like ‘unhealthy life in the future’ is commonly seen as a important feature in current beauty products. I rather think what beautiful means should be re-defined by each individual instead of marketing cosmetic companies that selling mass-producing artificial, toxic products to make us ‘beautiful’.

3 thoughts on “Skin Lighteners and Racial Betrayal

  1. The article on skin lightners was very infomrative. i had never heard of that before. I would like to correct something. There are not a large number og Black Americans use hair straightner. The women use it to make thier hair easier to manange. Black men who use perms for years to allow thier hair to grown down instead of out is usally what they do if they do not comb thier hai. A majority of the men who use hair straightner are usually in the homosexual community and they do it to appear more feminine.

  2. extremely interesting stuff, some people say that being mulatto is the best of both worlds.

    everything is relative

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