“One whiteness can cover three ugliness”

Photo courtesy of nccj.org

“ White skin” is another issue.  The skin whitening craze in Asia and Africa has gone to, well , crazy  levels. And it is being fueled  by the  media’s love affair  with  white-skinned models  and  leading ladies. Whitening soaps, whitening lotions, whitening capsules. Then, there are whitening medical procedures  like  lasers  and  intravenous glutathione. The media continues  to send the message that white skin is  more beautiful than brown or black skin.  Although skin whitening has been done by women  for centuries —it has never been so popular  and widespread as it is these days. The ancient saying ” One whiteness can cover three ugliness” has become a modern battle cry.

Skin whitening advertisements  are  everywhere in Asian countries. Many of the endorsers  were born with white  skin in the first place. That is clear deception.  And it is infuriating  that governments  actually allow  them .

These marketing  ploys are succeeding. According to a 2004 study by global marketing firm Synovate, nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products that year. That was many years ago. The figure must be higher these days. In terms of  purchases, Asians  now  spend US$  13  to 18  billion annually on skin whitening products  alone .

 Before and after. What’s wrong with ” before “?  This  desire   for  white skin  is mainly rooted in colonialism , particularly in Eurocentrism . Most countries in Asia and Africa were once colonized by white people: Americans,British,French,Spanish.  White is the color of the masters. White is the color of wealth.  On the other hand, black is the color of the slaves. Brown is the color of poverty and ignorance.

Then enter Hollywood and K-Pop,  selling glittering  entertainment dominated by white-skinned artists.

Westerners who visit  Asian countries  are just shocked  at the skin whitening phenomenon  and the  prejudice that goes with dark skin.

There is a bit of irony here. Asians  and Africans  nowadays are  sensitive  when it comes to racism committed by Westerners. Yet, among themselves, there exists “ colorism ”.  Colorism is a form of prejudice that  favors lighter -skinned people  over  dark-skinned people in the same  ethnic group. When Asians and Africans denounce racism  yet condone colorism— that is hypocrisy.

( This is an excerpt from a longer article published on this blog. )

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