Expanding the Conversation on Skin Bleaching

By Kadra Abdi

At Ubuntu, we are interested in advancing the skin bleaching or lightening conversation beyond the superficial, inconclusive, and victim-blaming perspective we often see. If our collective goal is to eliminate this practice, then it’s imperative to examine this issue through a social, economic, and political context.

Consider this:

  • Bleaching is deeply rooted in the history of colonialism and its impact on people is very much psychological.

  • As a by-product of colonialism, skin lightening promotes Eurocentric beauty standards that have been perpetuated through film, media, and advertisements.

  • While people of all income levels fall prey to skin bleaching, it’s often low-income people who do not have access to comprehensive and affordable skin care options that resort to this practice.

As a result, shifting the blame on those who bleach is problematic because it ignores the racism, colorism, and violence behind their actions. It is victim blaming. Furthermore, it negates other reasons for skin bleaching (e.g. correcting issues such as hyperpigmentation, scarring from acne, or sun damage). The existing skin lightening conversation is narrowly focused on condemning people without addressing the underlying cause of skin issues impacting black and brown people.

Considering that people who bleach their skin are stigmatized, it’s no surprise that they often hide the fact that they do – fearing backlash and judgment. This fear speaks to our collective shaming of people versus providing solutions to the skin issues that plague our communities.

Instead of victim blaming, we need to uplift narratives that empower and offer people alternatives. We have to shift our attention to more inclusive beauty standards. In the U.S. alone, there are countless of beauty products that have harmful effects on our bodies. We have to prioritize healthy skin care practices and choose safe and environment-friendly products. We need to promote healthy skin care products and practices for people of color. This means investing in brands and companies that cater to our standards and health. Because our beauty is not substandard and neither is our health.

More on this topic coming soon. How have you seen or experienced skin-bleaching practices in your life? Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts or writing an article of your own - email us at info@weareubuntu.com.