Saturday, October 24, 2015

White like me

Responding to a piece by a dark black woman lamenting lighter-skinned black women who, apparently not satisfied with their black-lite, make themselves lighter still for the putative aesthetic enhancement it brings, Paleo Retiree remarks:
Easy to understand for the ladies. Aside from Michael Jackson, have there been many dark-hued men who've tried to do a lot of skin-lightening? I remember that Sailer said that Sammy Sosa did it ...
Dan recently pointed out that it is not an exclusively female thing. In addition to the most notorious example, Michael Jackson, the aforementioned Sosa, and soccer player Neymar (also via Steve), Al Sharpton, David Dinkins, James Earl Jones, and Vybz Kartel (a real stand up guy!) appear to be bathing in alabaster.

Are there more instances of high-profile black men possibly aspiring to put on permanent whiteface? I'd like to collect them, with illustrations, here:

Vybz Kartel
David Dinkins
Neymar Silva Santos
Al Sharpton
Sammy Sosa
James Earl Jones
Michael Jackson

Excerpting from a BBC article, Dan writes:
"The World Health Organization has reported that Nigerians are the highest users of such products: 77% of Nigerian women use the products on a regular basis. They are followed by Togo with 59%; South Africa with 35%; and Mali at 25%."

Its similarly huge in Asia and India.

If it is not a major thing in America, then America would be the exception.


15 comments:

RR said...

I don't think skin lightening is a thing among American blacks. It doesn't even seem to be a thing among black American female celebrities. Looking at photos of Rihanna and Beyonce, I haven't noticed any significant skin color changes that couldn't be attributed to lighting or makeup despite Mica Paris' assertions to the contrary. Here is Rihanna as a child:

http://tinyurl.com/pdmswc5

Here she is as a grown woman:

http://tinyurl.com/pb72wws

Even if her skin lightening was done gradually, it would have been evident over time. After looking at her photos, her skin tone is fairly consistent. This also seems to be the case for Beyonce:

http://tinyurl.com/nleeb5h

The case for skin lightening among black American male celebrities is even weaker. If anything, they would get a bigger bang for their colorist buck by darkening their skin. Let's take another look at David Dinkins. Dinkins was and is a light skinned black guy. I couldn't find any color photos of Dinkins as a young man, but here is a picture of him as mayor:

http://tinyurl.com/q48825k

A more recent pic:

http://tinyurl.com/nrcm29a

For comparison, let's look at pictures of noted radical Womanist author Alice Walker. Being very familiar with Walker's politics, I think it is safe to say she has never lightened her skin. I think she was in her early 40s in this pic:

http://tinyurl.com/nwg75uo

Here she is in her 70s:

http://tinyurl.com/oba4ot3

It seems to me that Walker and Dinkins have aged in similar fashion, with both appearing lighter in their old age. And here is James Earl Jones:

http://tinyurl.com/qfpyutb

Jones was always a light-skinned fellow with green eyes. And he has aged as a light-skinned fellow with green eyes.

I would say that the apparent skin tone differences can be attributed to:

1) Differences in lighting and makeup.
2) The reality that older people have a tendency to be indoors to a greater degree than younger people, thus causing light-skinned people to seem lighter in old age.

Additionally, for the biggest political and sexual impact, a black person, regardless of sex, would be more likely to lighten his/her skin as a young person. Note that Neymar, Sammy Sosa and Michael Jackson lightened their skin as young men. Dinkins would have gotten zero payoff for lightening his skin at 65. The same holds for Sharpton, only more so. Compare an older, slender sharpton:

http://tinyurl.com/oxwkgrz

with a younger, heavier Sharpton:

http://tinyurl.com/otq4yh4

I don't see much skin color variation in these pictures. Again, Sharpton would have been aided in his race baiting (and skirt chasing) by darkening his skin, not lightening it.

Gerald Belton said...

Be careful. Lighting and exposure make a huge difference in how skin tones are rendered in photographs. None of your examples is adequate evidence of lightening, alkyl could be photographic artifacts.

Audacious Epigone said...

RR,

I'm even less familiar with those black women than I am with the black men here. Thanks for all the links.

Dinkins is the most questionable, and Jones could be attributed to makeup and being cloistered inside. Sosa, Neymar, and Jackson seem to have experienced real changes in pigmentation though. Sharpton does, too--clicking through photos of him with Tawana Brawley, he was clearly darker then than he is in any contemporary photo.

Audacious Epigone said...

That there would seem to be a disincentive to skin lightening among blacks, especially those who are Professional Blacks like Sharpton, is curious, but there is no end to the complaining among blacks about how lighter blacks have social advantages over darker blacks. The urge among many whites to revere anyone who is able to identify as black--and any serviceable black will do, from one drop to jet--might not be shared by blacks themselves, among who there is a more complex social hierarchy that many whites are not cognizant of.

Vybz said...

Vybz Kartel. He bleached (whatever that entails.)

Audacious Epigone said...

Thanks. Never heard of him until now. What a piece of work.

Anonymous said...

From a thyroid imbalance, I got white spots on my hands about a year ago (I'm blonde, blue-eyes and pale skin). The doctor told me that I could bleach my hands to "soften" the lines between the white spots and my skin. After putting the stuff on my hands for a month, my hands are ghostly white, so white, in fact, that I'd rather have the spots and look human.

I looked around on the internet to see if my cream can be bought in online pharmacies -- hydroquinone four percent. Online, in those marginal online pharmacies, there is both six percent and eight percent! That would pale the night.

The ubiquity of the skin lightening meds/creams online suggests a huge market for the stuff. I'm sure, now, that many blacks/browns/yellows are using the creams to look like Europeans.

Hell, if you can't beat us ...



Dan said...


The Beeb:

"Africa: Where black is not really beautiful"
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-20444798

"The World Health Organization has reported that Nigerians are the highest users of such products: 77% of Nigerian women use the products on a regular basis. They are followed by Togo with 59%; South Africa with 35%; and Mali at 25%."

Its similarly huge in Asia and India.

If it is not a major thing in America, then America would be the exception.

Dan said...

A search for "hydroquinone" on Amazon gives me 1,348 results, some with thousands of reviews.

Audacious Epigone said...

Dan,

Wow, thanks.

Similar results on Ebay, where at the moment of this comment posting there are 465 active auctions for hydroquinone. The second item listing shows over 4,000 sold.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

That BBC article reports that South Africa banned 2%+, suggesting that there was a substantial market (and presumably still is) for higher concentrations than that.

Anonymous said...

Sharpton looks like a bobble head. This happens when naturally big people (who tend to have large heads) loose a lot of weight.

RR said...

Adacious Epigone wrote:

Dinkins is the most questionable

I have to disagree with you here. Again, what would he have to gain from lightening his skin in old age? Unless he has some skin disorder like vitiligo (as Michael Jackson did) he would have no incentive to lighten. I'm inclined to think that Dinkins lightened naturally as he aged, just like Walker. You can even see this effect in some white people. Here is a pic of Jimmy Carter as president:

http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/5/50734/1376863-cart4.jpg

Here is a picture of an aged Jimmy Carter:

http://tinyurl.com/nsy4836

Did Jimmy lighten his skin? Probably not. Again, what would be the payoff? Here is Harry Belafonte as a young man:

http://tinyurl.com/o4qdmoo

Here is an older Belafonte:

http://www.wmeentertainment.com/harry_belafonte/imgs/harry_belafonte_1.jpg

Belafonte's pictures are notable because he seems to have darkened as he aged. Does this mean Belafonte has been hitting the tanning beds? I doubt it. Belafonte exhibits the general pattern of blacks darkening as they age. Of course one has to ask “How black is black?” It might be that many light-skinned blacks lighten as they age just as many whites lighten as they age.

Sharpton does, too--clicking through photos of him with Tawana Brawley, he was clearly darker then than he is in any contemporary photo.

Hmm. I'm dubious. Here is a young Sharpton:

http://www.isthatbaloney.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/al-sharpton-calling-for-protests.jpg

Here is an older Sharpton:

http://static.politifact.com.s3.amazonaws.com/politifact%2Fphotos%2Fsharpton.jpg

Again, I don't see much skin color variation.

The urge among many whites to revere anyone who is able to identify as black--and any serviceable black will do, from one drop to jet--might not be shared by blacks themselves, among who there is a more complex social hierarchy that many whites are not cognizant of.

This is undoubtedly true, but I think you overstate things. Just as white racism against blacks has receded, color prejudice against dark skinned blacks by other blacks has receded also. If anything, the prejudice runs the other way, against lighter individuals. Skin color was quite probably a factor in Barack Obama's loss to the darker-skinned Bobby Rush in Obama's first run for office.

Dan wrote:

If it is not a major thing in America, then America would be the exception.


America is exceptional in many respects. The one-drop rule is exclusively American. Whiteness is not, yet, at a premium in the US. Dark-skinned people in other countries have a greater incentive to lighten, being that light skin is relatively rare in Asia and Africa. In the US, light-skin isn't unusual at all, so for most blacks, especially those blacks who are already light-skinned, lightening their skin a few shades via creams would not result in a big enough social payoff (especially given the well known health dangers and odd color results). Indeed, it would probably result in a social backlash here in the US for those blacks who even seem to undergo it. Not so in other countries where whiteness is at a premium.

A search for "hydroquinone" on Amazon gives me 1,348 results, some with thousands of reviews

Did you read some of the reviews?I would wager that the overwhelming majority of reviews were done by whites with some sort of skin disorder. Many of the seemingly black reviewers also had skin problems. None of the reviews I skimmed through mentioned lightening the whole body or whole face for purely aesthetic reasons. This review by a black woman seems typical:

http://tinyurl.com/oe7gf8l


So no, skin lightening is not a thing among black Americans. Tattooing is a thing among American blacks. Hair straightening used to be a big thing among both American black women and men. It still is a thing among black women, but to a significantly lesser degree than it has been in the past. Hair straightening among black men isn't a thing at all anymore.

Audacious Epigone said...

RR,

Dinkins as the most questionable in terms of whether or not there is even reason to suspect that his skin has lightened.

With regards to Jimmy Carter, that very well could be the result of less sun exposure. Could be in the case of lighter skinned blacks to some degree as well, but probably not to the same extent.

Those two juxtaposed pictures of Sharpton are about the least contrasting I'm able to find. The older picture looks like it was bleached (the whole thing!).

You may be correct and the links are much appreciated. Also, of course it doesn't have to be "a thing" in the main to be practiced by a handful of high-profile blacks and a minority of all blacks. If that's the case, it's still a potentially interesting phenomenon.

Sosa seems like a difficult case to be skeptical of, and Kartel admitted to bleaching (though both of those guys aren't Americans by birth).

Anonymous said...

MJ had vitiligo though. Plenty of dark skin people have vitiligo and usually bleach to even it out... or just let their skin go white entirely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za6nv-CK4xQ