Why Removing Skin Bleaching Products Won’t Erase The Stain of White Supremacy

The national uprising in response to the horrific slaying of George Floyd by a rogue cop, who callously suffocated the life of an unarmed Black man while his two colleagues observed with callous nonchalance has incited a global reckoning on a scale that has never been seen before.

Suddenly, the secret is out!

White supremacy is the disease that has violently devoured Black cultures and implemented the legacy of hate, that has plagued the psyche of victimized natives, who were raised to believe that dark skin is vile enough to warrant habitual skin bleaching.

Growing up in Nigeria, it was abundantly clear that skin tones were a big deal and being light-skinned was and is the preferred mandate, even when the drastic lengths to achieve that palette reveals gross scarring.

As dark-skinned girl, navigating those environments, I was thankfully spared the terrific blows to my self-esteem. My mother, who is a lot brighter than my medium dark complexion, went out of her way to compliment my best attributes throughout my childhood.

However, my testament doesn’t translate for every dark-skinned girl who had to accommodate a climate that was overtly hostile to the very thing that defines our viability, within communities that have been tragically bullied into disrespecting our version beauty, that was willfully and grotesquely marred by the lethality of whiteness.

The damage that has been wrought to former colonies like Nigeria, Ghana, and India, who are incidentally the three major importers of skin bleaching products from mostly European-based brands is irrevocable.

The decades of psychological abuse stemming from the supply of goods that are meant to whiten black skin from darkness, at the expense of harmful replicas of the real thing, that are cheaper at a high price of permanent damage, that goes beyond “bleaching” — can’t be reversed by the revised sentiment that rejects demonizing blackness.

It was recently confirmed that a handful of beauty brands that have been notorious for outrageously marketing products that relentlessly promise to remove the stain of darker hues, and magically replace that handicap with the smoother, lighter coat of desirability, are now committed to scaling back on mass production.

Unilever announced that it will “change the name of its Fair & Lovely skin-lightening cream,” and also take extra steps to phase out standard descriptions like “fair/fairness, white/whitening, and light/lightening,” in order to reemphasize the need to celebrate “glowing and radiant skin, regardless of skin tone.”

Johnson & Johnson is also pledging to refocus messaging on highlighting the beauty of all skin tones, as well as promoting the appeal of healthy skin without perpetuating the notion that fair skin is the end goal.

There’s also an active plan in place for Johnson & Johnson to eventually stop manufacturing skin lightening products like the bestseller, “Neutrogena Fine Fairness,” that mostly populate marketplaces located in Asia and the Middle East.

L’Oreal has also joined the fold by confirming that it will re-package products that contain labels like “fair, whitening, lightening,” in an effort to switch the narrative away from the crippling undertones of white supremacy, and how it dictates the desperation to be as close as to whiteness as possible in order to fulfill the requirements of unattainable perfection.

While it’s hard not to be somewhat optimistic about the ambitious agenda laid out by global cosmetic brands, that like most big name corporations, methodically utilized exploitative tactics to maintain revered statuses, there’s definitely a level of bitterness about how long it took to acknowledge the nefariousness of profiting from bigoted concepts.

I’ve previously written about the longterm effects of skin bleaching and how the horrors of white supremacy are ingrained within the fabric of Black and Brown cultures, in ways that can’t be easily removed.

The abrupt switcheroo by implicated retailers that are swiftly responding for the sake of avoiding a PR disaster and potentially decreasing sales is transparently disingenuous.

Yes, of course it’s necessary to evolve with major shifts in ideologies, that propel the nature of demand and supply, particularly when the revisions pertain to the wellbeing of victimized customers, who stay loyal to the code of degradation, that reduces self-worth and uplifts falsehoods that ensure the longevity of mental enslavement.

But even this huge effort to repackage and reissue a more acceptable form of marketing that targets all skin types, won’t automatically smoothen the blemishes of purposed targeting that gluttonously erected empires.

The booming sales that have been amassed from the offensiveness of selling the appalling lie that brutalizes dark skin, and validates why “whitening” is the best option, has exacted serious ramifications that won’t fade away, unless there’s a concerted endeavor across the board, to produce new and improved products that cater to skin tones that have been unfairly vilified.

Cited brands like the ones previously mentioned should be willing to take full accountably for the active roles they’ve played in turning the skin lightening business into a whopping $10 billion dollar industry that has been forecasted to increase to $23 billion in 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been steadfastly committed to raising the alarm on the dangers of the global epidemic of skin bleaching by identifying the “active agent” of a certain type of mercury that is commonly found in bleaching creams and soaps.

Perhaps it would be advantageous for Unilver, L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson to lead the way in partnerships with WHO for the benefit of educating customers about why beautifying the skin shouldn’t involve an extreme routine, that could risk your ability to completely recover from that level of self-abuse.

White supremacy did more than just feature the unwarranted presence of white invaders with mission statements to permanently deface and destabilize richly defined cultural kingdoms, that are still paralyzed from the after shocks of colonial violence.

We were also taught to abhor the color of our skin and spend a lifetime mutilating masterpieces that were designed to attract the traitorousness of whiteness at our vulnerable expense.

And unfortunately it will take many generations to begin the process of erasing that stubborn stain of self-hate, but if doing the right thing can speed that up, then white-owned companies that are guilty of historic malpractices should step it up!

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