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. )