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Skin Bleaching

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INTRODUCTION The differentiation of skin tone by lightness or darkness continues to be a sociological issue in both the United States and Jamaica today. It is believed that light skin is valued over dark skin in communities all over, in turn causing people to make changes to their natural physical appearance. Studies have been conducted with aims to determine why people bleach their skin, if it has to do with self-image, identity, or if it’s due to psychological scaring from the past. Dating back to plantation slavery, social relationships among Africans and white communities shaped what is now perceived as “acceptable” in communities now a day. “Dark skinned people were considered to be devalued whereas light skin was valued.” (Charles 2003) The Mulattoes, which were the people mixed with Black and white, were allowed to work in the great house. The Africans on the other hand were socialized to show deference to the mulattoes on the plantation (Charles 2009). Today, more than 90% of Jamaica’s population is of African descent and dominate the political landscape, but the minority dominates the economy. Although class and color distinction are very important in society, there is minimal tension over race (Charles 2009) Identity, as well as self-esteem is often thought to be the reason behind skin bleaching. Slavery was an extremely traumatizing experience for the Africans. They were brainwashed into believing that the values of the British communities were more important than that of their own. It was back then when Africans through socialization began devaluing their identity and began having negative attitudes towards themselves. Skin bleaching is believed to be the contemporary evidence of the lingering psychological scars of slavery in particular and colonization in general. (Charles 2003) Theoretically, this study will concentrate on the motives of self-esteem and self-hate that is involved with skin bleaching in Jamaica as well as the US. What ideologies brings forth a resin to why a person with confidents has a very high self-esteem as to a person with low self-esteem tends to feel rejected by the views of society.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Main objective of these researches is to investigate the ways and motives to why someone would bleach their skin. Social Learning theory would best describe many issues that are brought up but the issue of the problem, case in point would be the media, how they portray the image of “light-skinned” are the most beautiful thing viewed through the media. Why would a people have self-hatred to how they look or how other people view them as ugly or pretty, “Black children selected the White dolls, they rejected their Black group. Moreover, their preference was anindi-cation of self-hate. However, it was not assumed that the White children that selected Black dolls hated themselves” (Charles 2003). Self-esteem issue raise a factor in the study, for example Michael Jackson in case point, many believed that Michael never like his nose size, so he decide to get plastic surgery, as well as him not accepting the color of his skin. Now this is when the media get involve and popular status figure goes up, a person starts to believe that society in the viewers of the media will not accept him/her because the color of his skin. However, Jackson has denied bleaching his skin but he has stated that he suffers from a skin disease, which destroys the pigment in his skin (Charles 2003).
Research reveals that there was a persistent advantage for the light-skinned African Americans in terms of educational attainment, income, residential segregation, and spousal status among other variables (Hunter 2002). Some slaves were held captive and forbidden by their master to receive education separate from getting basic instruction required for plantation work, after all the slaves where emancipation, the education of the Africans was conducted by churches in which they had to continue religious and educational Eurocentrism. The Mualottoes where considered the educated ones because they read authors like Dickens, Shakespeare, Scott and Thackeray and also received secondary education while the whites received education in England. Students who are educated abroad are perceived as a better educated with being hired over local graduates with a better paying income or salary. Blacks experienced discrimination from white teachers and mulatto students, majority of blacks could not go beyond the level of elementary school in with school was not compulsory (Charles 2009).
The self image of students is a function of the rank the school has in the hierarchic social status of Jamaica. Students’ body image satisfaction is a function of its closeness to the Caucasian ideal, educators have resisted teaching brothers like Marcus Garvey’s philosophy despite its official insertion into curriculum (Charles 2009).
Many believe that history repeats itself, with slavery and skin bleaching raises issues that black African Americans are still mentally empowered to slavery. Dark-skin people work in the fields while the light skin blacks work as maids or housekeeper for the whites. Reparations are intended to make up for the unjustified actions of the past. By doing so, it punishes the people of today to make up for the actions from the people in the past. Why should a person in today’s society suffer because of our prior past experiences. Blacks did suffer in the past from the injustice of slavery, but it is the past that will help mold the future for young children growing up.
In many of those articles they bring up a big topic that involves skin bleaching, that would be slavery. Slavery was a part of the cause with traumatizing experience for the enslaved Africans that were brainwashed to hate themselves and the color of their skin. “The descendants of enslaved Africans through socialization have internalized the negative attitudes about themselves. Skin bleaching is the contemporary evidence of the deep rooted and lingering psychological scars of slavery in particular and colonization in general” (Charles 2009). Meaning that skin bleaching will always be a form of slavery in a psychological term “bleaching is not only indicative of an identity crisis but it is fashionable, beautiful and it provides socio-economic advantage” (Doorman 2011). Bleaching is a sense of modern day slavery, and what leads them to do so, is the empowerment of a mind to self image. There are many risks with bleaching; it can cause permanent damage to the skin as well as overall well being. There are a few things that can lead to scaring of one’s skin, but first. there are many products that can be used in bleaching, here is some examples, black and blue bruising of the skin, redness, maybe cause acne to worsen, and eventually can cause the biggest effect from bleaching skin products will be skin cancer.
IDENTITY, SELF-IMAGE, SELF-ESTEEM Identity occurs during the early stages of life, when youth attempt to figure out where they fit into the adult world, asking the Who am I questions. Identity can also be viewed as “the narrative or story of the self that each person as the biographer successfully weaves across the life course.” (Charles 2003) It is said that the identity of a person is unconsciously influenced by the different activities as well as the people around. Throughout one’s lifetime, several different identities are constructed based on one’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupation, religion, politics, personal relationships, and race (Charles 2003). Each one of those identities is arranged in order of importance to that person. A study was conducted by Kenneth and Mamie Clarke in the United States that had a tremendous impact on the thesis of self-hatred.
Black and White school children were given Black and White dolls and asked to choose the one they prefer. The majority of Black children selected White dolls. It was assumed that because these Black children selected White dolls, they rejected their Black group. Moreover, their preference was an indication of self-hate. However it was not assumed that the White children that selected Black dolls hated themselves (Charles 2003).
The results of the doll study show how the children felt about their group but it did not determine how that child felt about himself or herself. In other words, you cannot determine how an individual feels about himself or herself by looking at how he or she feels about his or her group (Charles, 2003). Similar to identity, self-esteem is believed to be one of the reasons behind bleaching of the skin. Studies have found that dark skinned women in both the United States as well as in Jamaica had lower self-esteem than women who were considered light skinned. No matter how intelligent or inventive a dark skinned Black woman may be, if she finds herself unattractive she may feel she has nothing to offer society (Thompson & Keith 2001). Self-esteem is a person’s overall positive or negative attitude toward himself or herself. A person with high self-esteem thinks that he or she is a person of worth. Studies have shown that self-hatred and low self-esteem can cause someone to result to bleaching. There are different roles that play a part in bleaching based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupation, religion politics, personal relationships and race. “The majority of persons suffering from skin problems associated with bleaching are said to be females in their 20s to early 30s age group” (Charles 2003). Despite all of the transformations that occurred in the United States during the twentieth century, recent studies have shown that skin tone has an influence in shaping socioeconomic outcomes among African Americans (Hill 2002). The results of these recent studies are what have led scholars to truly believe that the color stratification has already been embedded dating back from plantation slavery. Studies have also found that being dark skinned as a man does not have the same effect as it does on women. Dark skinned women are not always looked at as beautiful, which causes them to have lower self-esteem, which in turn may cause them to begin bleaching their skin (Thompson & Keith 2001). Women’s bodies have been dismembered and marketed in the advertising for several decades now and an increase of importance of beauty for women has also risen, resulting in an explosion of cosmetic procedures for women’s bodies (Hunter 2011). There are those dark skinned women who escape the effects of colorism. The impact of skin tone on self-esteem was much weaker for those women from higher social class, but for those women who were from the working class, their self-esteem was lower (Hall 2006). Although not popular in the United States, a small portion of dark skinned women decide to bleach their skin in attempts to become a lighter complexion, because they see it as beautiful. Low self-esteem is closely related to skin bleaching in Jamaica. Some studies conducted in the late 1960s and the early 1970s where they had high school students evaluate themselves. These studies found that the White students evaluated themselves as having more status and importance than the brown students. The brown students evaluated themselves as having more status and importance than the Black and Chinese students, and the Black and Chinese evaluated their self-worth underestimated and undervalued in relation to the other groups (Charles, 2003) Again, this is believed to be rooted all the way back to the days of slavery. The idea of dark skin being devalued by society and still has an effect on Jamaica’s society today. Children are raised to believe that White is better than brown and brown is better than Black, which in turn causes some Black Jamaicans to bleach their skin (Charles, 2003). Society has embedded the idea that the lighter a person’s skin tone is the better. Even in media, the idea of skin bleaching seems to be the morally correct thing to do. Charles (2011) debunking the self-hate explanation for skin bleaching, argues that the debates in the dancehall music culture suggest that skin bleaching is taken as the relevant modes and models of fashion over style. Artist such as Buju Banton, Captain Barkey, and Vybz Kartel promote the idea of skin bleaching. With titles such as “Browning,” “Bleach On,” and “Cake Soap”, these artists are putting the idea of the lighter your skin tone the better, telling women to continue to bleach their skin because they are prettier that way that their greatest love is for a browning lover (Charles, 2003).
Studies conducted have found that there are many reasons why people bleach their skin and the reasoning varying depending on the person. Charles (2003) mentioned that people bleach their skin to “remove facial blemishes, to make their face “cool”, as a result of peer influences, to lighten their complexion, to appear beautiful and attract a partner, follow popular fad, and to have visual stimulus of the bleached skin because it makes them feel good.” Although there may be many reasons as to why a person may bleach their skin, scholars believe that the real reasoning roots back to low self-esteem as well as the scaring from the past embedded in the minds of the people today.

Charles, Christopher A. D. 2003. “Skin Bleaching, Self-Hate, and Black Identity in Jamaica.” Journal of Black Studies 33(6):711-728.
Charles, Christopher A. D. 2003. “Skin Bleaching and the Destruction of Blackness.” IDEAZ 2(1)42-54
Charles, Christopher A. D. 2009. “Skin Bleachers’ Representations of Skin Color in Jamaica.” Journal of Black Studies 40(2):153-170.
Charles, Christopher A. D. 2011. “Skin Bleaching and the Prestige Complexion of Sexual Attraction.” Sexuality and Culture 15:375-390.
Dorman, Jacob S. 2011. “Skin Bleach and Civilization: The Racial Formation of Blackness in 1920s Harlem.” The Journal of Pan African Studies 4(4):47-80.
Hall, Robert E. 2006. “The Bleaching Syndrome Among People of Color: Implications of Skin Color for Human Behavior in the Social Environment.” Journal of Human Behavior in Social Environment 13(3):19-31.
Hill, Mark E. 2002. “Skin Color and the Perception of Attractiveness Among African Americans: Does Gender Make a Difference?” Social Psychology Quarterly 65(1):77-91.
Hunter, Margaret L. 2002. “If You’re Light You’re Alright Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color.” Gender & Society 16(2):175-193.
Hunter, Margaret L. 2011. “Buying Racial Capital: Skin-Bleaching and Cosmetic Surgery in a Globalized World.” The Journal of Pan African Studies 4(4):142-164.
Thompson, Maxine S., Verna M. Keith. 2001. “The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy.” Gender & Society 15(3):336-357.

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