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BBC Africa recently posted an article by Pumza Fihlani entitled “Africa: Where Black is not really Beautiful.” Highlighting the well-publicized case of South African musician, Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi, who openly (and unapologetically) acknowledges lightening her skin, the article positions skin bleaching the result of “low self-esteem and, to some degree self-hatred.” While Mnisi herself admits that her decision to lighten her skin is indeed “part of … a self-esteem issue,” can we safely conclude that skin bleaching, a now global, and widely practiced phenomenon, is the result of low self-esteem and/or self-hatred? Among those who bleach, can we be sure that the motivating factors are identical just because they all engage in a similar practice? And if the goal is to understand skin bleaching enough to be able to curb, if not stop the practice, how useful would an individualized approach to skin bleaching be to the hundreds of thousands who bleach all over the world? Perhaps the goal is not to eradicate skin bleaching. Perhaps sensationalizing it is. (more…)

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On Sunday December 9th, CNN aired the latest installment of their annual Black in America series reported by Soledad O’Brien. This year’s special, entitled “Who is Black in America?,” focused on colorism and racial identity and the intricate intersections between the two. We watched young adults grapple with questions of their identity, namely the question of “What are you?” – a question not only asked of them by others, but one that they continue to ask of themselves. This is a question I myself have never had to think about, much less articulate an answer to because the color of my skin is reflective of my Ghanaian ancestry. By its dark tone, everyone I encounter knows exactly what I am.

Perhaps that’s why I felt most personally connected to the story of seven-year-old, LaShawnte. (more…)

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