Cooper confronts the ‘bleaching’ trend among black Caribbean women
May 17, 2011
Cooper confronts the ‘bleaching’ trend among black Caribbean women

There is a “disturbing trend” in the Caribbean, where Black women are bleaching their skin in an attempt to meet American and European ideal standards of beauty.{{more}}

This argument was put forward by Carolyn Cooper, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies in the Department of Literatures in English, at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica, at a lecture held here at the Methodist Church Hall, on Thursday, May 12.

During her discourse, Cooper discussed the issue of bleaching, which is becoming widespread in the Caribbean.

For many women in the African Diaspora, the politics of beauty is complicated by racism, said Cooper.

“This bleaching of the skin, usually only of the face and neck, is an obvious attempt to partially disguise the racial identity of the individual,” said Cooper.

She said, unlike Black women from Africa, for whom beauty is defined in indigenous terms, many African women in the Diaspora are judged by standards of beauty based on non-African standards.

As a consequence of this, many women in the Diaspora have to settle for being “sexy” instead of beautiful.

Cooper said that she posited in a column recently in Jamaica, where the problem of bleaching is more widespread than in other countries of the Caribbean, that if the issue of skin bleaching is to be addressed, the society must first acknowledge the fact that there is an epidemic of colour prejudice.

“The mask of lightness, however, dangerous in medical terms, becomes a therapeutic signifier of status in a racist society that still privileges melanin deficiency as a sign of beauty,” said Cooper.

She said it is not only women who feel obliged to wear the mask of light skin, as men are also doing so. She said popular dancehall deejay Vybes Kartel said he bleaches to make his tattoos more visible.

On this note, she said the technology of tattooing needs to be reassessed.

“That for black people, maybe we need ink that is yellow or white, that it will show up on the skin,” said Cooper.

As part of her interest in Jamaican popular culture, Cooper recently invited the controversial Jamaican artiste (Vybes Kartel) to deliver a lecture at the Mona Campus, an activity that attracted 5,000 people.

Cooper also mentioned that photographers have been bleaching Blacks for a long time by adjusting the shade of their skin in photos.