Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Black Beauty

     "She's a dark beauty", my neighbour said looking at a picture of a popular dark skinned Nigerian actress. How come no one says "white beauty" or "fair beauty"? Is there a beauty ladder only light-skinned females can climb with the occasional dark-skinned girl being allowed to crawl through?
        Growing up as a kid in Nigeria, you learn that the pretty girls in your primary school class are the mixed kids or the non-mixed kids with skin so yellow they were called "paw-paw". Every other person was ordinary or ugly. It doesn't get easier when you grow up. Evil is denoted by black. The people with skin so dark it had the undertone of blueberries were made fun of as teens. No one was excluded. They were likened to charcoal. It was especially worse for girls. As time goes on, in most cases, self-esteem is severely battered. A lot of people carry on with the notion that beauty or self-worth is tied to their skin colour and that the farther they are from Beyonce', they would never be perceived as beautiful. In short, dark skinned girls are never the babes. In movies, they are not the girl the guy falls in love with. They are the best friends or the obese one.
         The pressure to lighten the complexion comes in. They could resort to bleaching creams and soaps to remove the supposed curse of darkness. They probably heard things like, "You're pretty for a dark girl. You'd be even prettier if you were lighter". Despite the dangers associated with skin bleaching, the self-hate is entrenched too deeply and all caution is thrown to the wind. After all, melanin is always your enemy.  Skin lightening products are advertised daily and fill the shelves of our malls. Some people may even be advised to bleach their skin by family and close friends.
     I have no idea how this beauty caste originated but one thing is for certain. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the perception of beauty. Let the term "dark beauty" and every other one used to imply that beauty isn't a characteristic supposed to be associated with ebony skin be erased from our mental dictionaries. Let's start asking, "What exactly has beauty got to do with skin colour?"