…Make me white…


This week had been one of those where I really battled with sleep, usually when this happens I try a number of things like I would read a book, pray ,sing and when all of that fails watch telly. Tuesday night was no different A,B and C failed me so I opted for option D the TV. So I was pacing through the usual reruns and before I knew it – there was something interesting playing on BBCK

“Make me white”

I thought this could be interesting let’s see, at this time there was no hope of ever falling asleep like I was wide awake. Needless to say the show turned out to be another rerun but the good thing is that I have never seen it before, not even when it was first aired in 2009.I would have imagined something recorded in 2009 would be irrelevant in 2015 but girl! Was I wrong or what. As you might have picked up from the title the documentary was about a lot of things but few stood out .it was about

  • Dark skinned people wanting to have a lighter shade closer to white if you may white the colour of milk
  • A particular publication in the UK perpetuating the use of bleaching creams etc
  • A proud manufacturer of skin bleaching creams and other things
  • .dark_girls

Maybe I have been living under a little rock or I haven’t been socialising as much as I should especially with Indian or Asian people, because if I have been, this would not have been as shocking as it was. I am not about to get on a high horse with a sjambok and start trouncing on people who choose to lighten up their skin because I do not know the impetus to that. These people had reasons which varied from one person to the other. Some said they were doing it because if you lighter society tends to treat you better, your prospects of being employed increase, the lighter you are the more likely you will be considered for opportunities that you would have not been considered had you been dark. These people are of cause all based in England even though most of them had origins from some parts of Asia.

Whether skin bleaching is right or wrong everyone that does it seem to have a valid reason for doing it so.

The documentary however did remind me of a lot of things especially those very things that happen in our backyards in our living rooms one of which being the


Why are we deceiving ourselves when we all know that the majority of Africans prefer lighter shaded skins tones? Not so long ago I was watching ‘Datemyfamily’ and there was this light skinned bachelorette, one needed to glance on twitter to see how many praises she was getting and the biggest of all the compliments was how light she was. Ever watched our music videos? You can count the number of dark skinned women that make it on those videos if ever there are any. Ever been to a supermarket lately if not, I beg you to have a quick glimpse at the magazines (just the covers). I am sure you do get the picture now. When Mshoza decided to open up about her wanting to look like Michael Jackson everyone was on her case. Some of my Christian friends were quoting scriptures just to crucify her choice, but the very same people will go on and on about yellow boned people being the Alpha and Omega of all complexions. Do Africans have a deep seated belief that light skin is aesthetically better? Maybe I should ask my friends who only dates light skinned sister/brothers.

Women bleach because that is what men want

According to the World Health Organisation, 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightning products on a regular basis as do 59% in Togo, 35% in South Africa, 27% in Senegal and 25% in Mali. These products are also used in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Tanzania.

Sitting here and saying I have never done anything I shouldn’t have in order to attract the other species attention would be a fib. Blaming that to peer pressure would be the biggest feint. Truth is I have made myself a little more beautiful( in my head) than I am in order to be more appealing to men, yes I’ve said it I have(Confession time). However as a woman you grow and you get to a place where you stop doing things to please other people, a place where you do things that you want to do not because some people would find you interesting/appealing. If women in Africa are more susceptible to this skin bleaching thing than men, it is merely because women are judged much more heavily on the basis of appearance, and let’s face it fitting in is nice, it’s very comforting but only for a little while. Men however are more likely to be considered valuable when they have wealth (Light or dark skinned), education and other forms of human capital, while women are considered valuable when they are physically attractive, even if they lack other investment(dare I say brains). Again I would ask you to go back to those magazines I have mentioned above and you’ll find that the women featured are almost always a few shades lighter than the men. Black men don’t need to be light-skinned to be worth paying any attention, but black women do. Men would probably be content to live in caves if they didn’t have to acquire the trappings necessary to compete for the most desirable women,(and by desirable the magazines, television, billboards etc emphasise it over and over that desirability equals lighter) and there would be less incentive for women to lighten their skin if men didn’t keep valuing lighter skinned sisters over darker skinned ones.


When I am around men be it colleagues of friends I like poking them by asking senseless questions. So this other time I asked former colleagues (black men) why is it that when black men perceive themselves successful they see to date outside their race. Needless to say I opened a can of worm, because that topic I its self could take centuries to debate. What I find disturbing in today’s world we are so easy to trivialize such issues into a matter of choice. Granted everyone is free to date whomever they want, everyone can do whatever they want to do to their skins or hair nails whatever you name it. However you can’t help but wonder: are they simply exercising their right to choose, or attempting to exorcise their own demons?

We were taught to hate ourselves through centuries of the slave trade (Arab and trans-Atlantic) and the colonial period that followed, and we are still being taught to hate ourselves through a Western consumer culture that is sold through today’s global media. Added to that these brothers of ours tell us how amazing yellow bones are (I am not hating on yellow bones maybe, matter of fact I have a problem with the word itself, another story for another day).Many of those who don’t go in for skin-lightening also tacitly accept the idea that lighter is better (particularly if it comes with European, rather than African, features), so we’re all part of a system that promotes self-hate. When people defend skin-lightening/bleaching by saying what people do to their skin is their own business, it’s usually a sign that they too value lighter skin over dark skin, whatever their own skin tone.

This internalised form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realise it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others. Thus, for instance, black guys (not only in Africa) think their attraction to light-skinned girls is just a matter of taste, and some who lighten their skin can’t articulate why they do so beyond saying that it’s just prettier, as though skin lightening were akin to putting on lipstick. It’s a matter of identity, self-worth and self-acceptance that, in some respects, is even existential.

Does self-hatred sound too strong a term? What else is one to conclude then, huh?

We could do a lot of things in order to free our minds from this, we could influence the media, magazines who promote this whiteness could be brought to task, we could teach our kids from early on that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being dark, black or African. How about stop calling lighter skinned black yellow bones?

<<<In the end, though, most of the work is down to each of us. The shackles of self-hatred were forged centuries ago, so freeing ourselves from them won’t happen overnight or easily, but it is possible. It has to be, for our own sakes, our kids sake and maybe generations to come >>>


5 thoughts on “…Make me white…

  1. yah I am blown away by details, I am sad and scared at the same time. Sad that I am raising black girls and I have noticed at this early age how they are preferring lighter skin than dark skin. I am scared because I don’t know how to stop this perpetuation of white supremacy.

    I think I chose a dark skinned woman because my mom is dark. And all my brothers married dark skinned women. I remember how my dad use to preach to us that we should bring him light skinned women. Coloureds if possible, we all had light skinned girl friends but we ended up marrying dark skinned women who looked like our mothers.

    Yes I must agree with you Andiswa, we need to free ourselves from mental slavery

    There is very few dark skinned movie stars, they are all light skinned

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s