"These women are being exploited by irresponsible beauty manufacturers," she said. "I want women to appreciate their natural color. I want women to make the most of their skin, no matter what shade it is." [....] After all, to be white was long an essential passport to power and wealth. [...] The lighter one's skin, it is widely believed here, the wealthier, better educated and more attractive one is. When it comes to wealth and education, at least, there are enough examples of light-skinned success stories to reinforce that perception. Advertising adds its own familiar emphasis. Television typically shows the light-skinned women winning the men. On roadside billboards, the women shown enjoying the good life are often far paler than the passers-by who behold them.
My dark skin and kinky hair are not favored attributes in the Black community, "Your skin is too black," "Your nose is too wide," "Your hair is so nappy"--these were my badges of dishonor. [...] As a community, our Blackness, or lack thereof, is often noted in the descriptions we've coined to specify our color. One is either too black, too light, red, damn-near-white, jet-black, light-brown, paper-bag tan, high yella, graham-cracker brown, redbone, blue-veined, dark-brown, blue-black or "light-skinded." [...] This fascination with color seems odd, considering that every label can be either an insult or a compliment. Though my skin color veers toward the dark end of the spectrum, I have never been Black enough to satisfy some. My mannerisms have been my Achilles' heel since youth. I was often taunted for being "proper" or "acting White" because of how I dressed and spoke. My mother can be blamed, or applauded, for making me the anomaly I am. She wouldn't allow split infinitives or Ebonies. She also forbade me to think less of myself because of class (we lived in a shotgun house) or color--and where I grew up, color affected class. In fact, she encouraged me to do just the opposite. [...] For the record, I am not denying that I'm a Black female who hates and suffers from racism. And I'm not saying I want to be White. I simply want to be neither.
America or Africa? Pick your neuroses. Pick your impossible dream.
I suppose there are certain benefits to having your neuroses here. The products in one of the stories would be illegal to sell here. Not that they're not illegal to sell in Kenya, as the author notes, but the FDA tends to take an extraordinarily dim view of selling products with mercury as a principal active ingredient. In other words, there but for the grace of government that every once in a while believes in some part of the public good, go us.Posted by iain at June 15, 2002 10:36 PM