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Editorial: Thinking ‘white’

An article from the international news agency Agence France Presse was quite disturbing. In Africa, just like in our country, a huge demand for skin bleach particularly among teenagers and young adults, is starting to pose health risks.

According to Lester Davids, a physiology professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the “older generation used creams — the new generation uses pills and injectables. The horror is that we do not know what these things do in high concentrations over time in the body.”
Does this sound familiar?

A young doctor from Nigeria, Dr. Isima Sobande, said that she was aghast that in a health center in Lagos, a mother brought in a two-month-old infant who was crying in pain. “He had very large boils all over his body,” the doctor told AFP. “It seemed like they weren’t normal.”

The baby’s mother said that she had mixed a steroid cream with shea butter and slathered his skin with it in order to make it whiter.

Skin bleaching, she said, has become “standard procedure,” a gateway to beauty and success. “It’s a mindset that has eaten into society. For a lot of people, it’s the path to getting a good job, having a relationship.”

But then we don’t have to look across the globe to see the same phenomenon of skin bleaching, no matter the health risks involved. The general notion is that having fairer skin makes women and men, more attractive and therefore they get more attention and better opportunities.

This perception reinforces the stereotype that being “white” like our colonial masters is better than the brown complexion that we were born with. Even young kids have become conscious of the color of their skin.

For sure multinational companies will continue to rake in profits playing on the insecurities of women, and now, a growing number of men. This is, after all, a multi-billion business.

The image of beauty or what is beautiful – not only in the Philippines but in Asian and African countries, shows the ingrained colonial mentality that we continue to carry well into the digital age.


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