Source: Ronald Hall, TheConversation.com
There are few places in the world where dark skin isn’t stigmatized.
Many Latin American countries have laws and policies in place to prevent discrimination relative to skin color. In many Native American communities, “Red-Black Cherokees” were denied acceptance into the tribe. In India, dark-skinned Dalits are viewed as “untouchables” to this day. And according to Japanese tradition, a woman with fair skin compensates for “seven blemishes.”
The United States has its own complicated history with skin color, primarily because “mulatto” skin – not quite black, but not quite white – often arose out of mixed-race children conceived between slaves and slave masters. These variations in complexions produced an unspoken hierarchy: Black people with lighter complexions ended up being granted some of the rights of the master class.
By early 19th century, the “mulatto hypothesis” emerged, arguing that the “white blood” of light-skinned slaves made them smarter, more civilized and better looking.
It’s probably no coincidence that light-skinned blacks have emerged as leaders in the black community. To white power brokers, they were less threatening: from Harvard’s first black graduate W.E.B. Du Bois to former U.S. president Barack Obama.
I coined the term “bleaching syndrome” to describe this phenomenon: it has three components. The first is psychological: This involves self-rejection of dark skin and other native characteristics. Second, it’s sociological, in that it influences group behavior (hence the phenomenon of black celebrities bleaching their skin). The final aspect is physiological, which takes bleaching to the extreme of altering hair color and even eye color to mimic the dominant group.
To obtain a fairer complexion, many apply bleaching creams. Some of the most popular are Olay, Natural White, Ambi Fade and Clean & Clear Fairness creams.
While skin bleaching creams can work, they can be dangerous: Some contain cancer-causing ingredients. Despite the potential danger, the global profits of skin bleaching cream sales is predicted to reach $31.2 billion.
The fact that so few in mainstream culture can even acknowledge the existence of the bleaching syndrome is a testament to how taboo the topic is.