Have a look at this story from the Daily Mail today. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=428541&in_page_id=1879 Bleaching creams are alive and well in the UK and they have been in the news recently. Shopkeepers have been raided for selling these dangerous creams. (The shopkeepers seem to be Asian or African who smartly don’t use their wares buy chose to profit from others’ misery).
This story speaks about the cultural pressure to be white. Having grown up in the UK and having lived in Jamaica for 19 years I know something of this pressure from both white and black people. When I was small in the UK there was severe racism (this was the 70s). I was taunted daily, beat up quite regularly and ostracised. I remember my circle of friends at school were a Moroccan girl, a Pakistani girl, a girl who’s father was in jail and a red headed boy. No-one would talk to any of us because we were outcasts because of the way we look – except the one with the father in jail. Don’t even ask about the red headed thing either – I haven’t got a sensible answer out of white people when I ask them why they ostracise red headed people and trust me, I’ve asked.
Then of course there’s the hair issue. Black people are distinctive in that we are the only folks with hair this texture. As a little girl I do remember putting a cardigan on my hair, flashing it and desperately wishing my hair flowed lightly and freely down my back. I also remember religiously scrubbing my elbows and knees to ‘get the black off.’
In Jamaica I was reborn as a black woman. I thank God my parents took me there to live, every day I thank God! (Thank you God again!) I was in a setting where being light skinned meant a lot to some people but on the whole, being black was intrinsically attractive. But there were what I called ‘the Cherry Gardens set,’ who worshipped at the feet of all things white. Now I went to Immaculate – nuff said. But I wasn’t an ‘Immaculate girl’ if you know what I mean. My mother was, and is a secretary and my father was a welder and we weren’t rich plus I took the bus. Most of my classmates were rich and would never be caught dead on a bus. These girls believed that lighter skinned with flowing locks was superior. Some of these bitches who were black but light skinned would throw a fit if you accused them of relaxing their hair which I did often. Growing up in upper St. Andrew I don’t claim to have an understanding of the reasoning behind poorer Jamaican women bleaching – but I have an idea of the pressure.
As a black woman who wears her hair naturally (dreadlocks) I got a lot of shtick from my peers when I decided to stop relaxing it – in Jamaica. Unbelievable! Isn’t it time this all stopped? Isn’t it time we came to grips with how we look naturally and celebrate it? Funny thing is most men I’ve been in relationships with (including my husband) love the natural look, in fact they prefer it. So why are we women so anxious to falsify ourselves, often at great risk to our health, to make other women happy?