It started when we were kids: the moment a child was born, relatives would start comparing siblings’ skin colour. You’d hear things like, “oh, she’s fairer than her sister”, “oh, he’s darker than his brother.” It starts in your own family.
One major mistake we make, consciously or unconsciously, is to make a certain colour the standard of beauty and this metric makes that colour more appealing, attractive, and desirable. We’re inclined to believe that any deviation from this standard is ugly and repulsive.
The one-standard skin bias was strongly reinforced by colonialism. It’s the idea that the ruler is fair-skinned. Now, globalisation is spreading the bias. In most cases, fair skin is now the definition of beauty. We see this bias in play out subtly or some times, very obviously in society; the prettier, skinnier and fairer girls are often positioned at the front of the stage, with their counterparts holding the fort at the back. Fairer girls are more considered for beauty pageantry than the darker girls.
Along with this ideology of the superiority of the fair skin are the products to service them. Research has shown that in most African countries, majority of the country’s women use products to become fairer, all in an attempt to fit into societal standards of beauty. Majority here means nothing less than 70% of the women population.
There used to be a highly racialized, gendered, and classified view of black women by the white men, and this is solely based on their skin colour. Without doubt, these stratifications still exist.
A black woman might be termed as unattractive and uneducated, and some might say that the term ‘black woman’ conjures up thoughts of “an overweight, dark-skinned, loud, poorly educated person, with gold teeth yelling at somebody in public.” Hilarious, yes, but that’s the reality.
According to most white male, they prefer the straight hair of the white woman to the “kinky” hair of the black woman; the light skin to the dark skin.
Despite the acceptance of some black women, such as Beyonce and Alicia Keys as a standard of beauty, there’s still a deep notion that black beauty is “less beautiful.” This shallow acceptance majorly stems from that fact that black women who are of a lighter skin colour or more white physical features are way better than the much darker ones. For instance, Alicia Keys, who is multiracial black and white, is the ideal black woman to some.
The issue is this: Beauty is often wrapped up in our ideas of whichever status, colour or race is considered to be the highest in social status. If we can’t change this, then society will not stop trying to fit us into a stereotypical mindset. How can a particular group of people decide who is beautiful and who isn’t? Why are people all over the world being driven to adopt standards of beauty? This has caused the world to become more conscious about the external looks, breeding people who are superficial. There is no depth in a lot of people anymore.
It’s saddening and heartbreaking to see people go overboard trying to get that “perfect” colour. No one should blame herself for being black, and then try to change it, either with makeup or skin lightening products. It starts with being comfortable in your own skin.
Much more than the colour and the race, true beauty is in how we love, care and share. True beauty is found on the inside. That should be the focus and the measure by which we are judged. How do we move through life? What other lives have we touched? Who have we confronted with love? How have we changed the world for the better? Those are the qualities that can’t be countered or weighed.
No one has the right to judge you. You were born beautiful. Don’t change your colour to get respect from society. Instead, change society to respect your colour.