‘Bleaching is a survival technique’
I say this because as a dark-skinned girl growing up in the western world I understand the pressures of society. The same goes for getting a relaxer and wearing a weave. It’s a survival technique we as black women have adopted to live in a society which upholds European beauty as the standard. We have never allowed this conditioning to stop us from shining. They wanted straight hair we gave them straight hair, they want curls we gave them curls.
Despite how much black women have evolved as beings we are still the most undervalued. Our adaptation is laughed at, shunned, insulted…this art form deserves nothing but respect. I can give you blue hair today, blonde tomorrow, a natural fro that defies gravity…the list goes on…thats art.
(Will insert a bunch of pics of me with different wigs for the visuals)
I have evolved as a black woman. I adapted and assimilated because it is what I had been conditioned to believe was the right way. This behaviour went against my spirit, suppressing my being, causing tension, stress and anxiety. All of this emotional burden I carried within my body.
When I endured living with racists it opened my eyes to how much I had tried to fit in with western society. One of the racist flatmates commenting on my new wig ‘She wanted it to be straight like mine’ I shuddered, I died a little inside, the statement was so far from the truth, yet I had no words, just complete and utter shock. After this experience and many others (they became more violent and aggressive as time went on), I realised there was absolutely nothing I could do to please people full of privilege, entitlement, discrimination, superiority complexes and white guilt. I was done educating. If the spirit nuh tek…it nuh tek. It was time for me to look at my reflection and other black women.
‘Bleaching is a survival technique’ I thought this as I pondered on a memory. Little 18year old me talking to a ‘friend’ at work…Abercrombie & Fitch (Ew). She was asking me if I had met the new black girl (Black was rare in Abercrombie & Fitch, you could count all black employees on one hand. In fact there was a time when A&F claimed they did not sell black because it was not a colour…)
Anyway this chatty patty ‘friend’ was being hella jisty (storytelling). After stating how much this girl liked me she concluded her story with ‘oh but you probably wont like her because she bleaches’. She was not wrong, I was young and dumb. Instead of embracing this girl I shuddered at her outright hatred for skin that reflected mine. I felt hurt that she was hurt enough to change it. It felt like her hatred for her skin meant she hated mine too. If only I had the knowledge back then to first remove my ego and meet this girl without my opinion. I will always regret this but I could not do what I did not know. You live and you learn
I’m all for choice and autonomy but not at the expense of my physical or mental health. The need to code switch as black women has been accepted, since 2016 we are finally speaking on the negative impact this has had on our mental health.
I wonder why we are not rewarded this perspective when black women visually code switch. Why as black women we are told to hold back on expressing ourselves. From our hair to our clothes, anything against the ‘norm’ usually a misogynistic norm is degraded, belittled, labelled as negatively ratchet. Yet when we see a friend whose foundation is two – four shades lighter than the rest of her, we say nothing. Bearing in mind it is winter so if the foundation does not colour match now…it never will. Maybe the energy wasted policing black women on how we dress can be better used to redress our mentality when it comes to the shade of our skin. Considering skin came/comes before clothes, it would be logical for that to be the focus. Common sense even…maybe. All of that money but you cant see your shade. There is a mental block that the majority of us need to deal with. Only then can we truly love the skin we are in. This mental block has been brought to you by western societies beauty ideals. Forced to make multiple changes throughout life with no understanding as to why and given no support.
We as black womxn are forced to assimilate and adapt the most in society after trans women. Yet we are the least supported, after trans black women. Disproportionate rates of people from BAME populations have been detained under the Mental Health act 1983. The strong black women stereotype is EXTREMELY hard to shake off. In a world where our vulnerability is seen as a weakness, we may lose our minds before we find ourselves.
Bleaching creams are available over the counter…its positively advertised everywhere and the media continues to white wash black people with the use of light-skinned/biracial women standing in place of black womxn as though we do not exist. When you look at media’s images of dark skin women in particular they take on the role of nurturer (maid/nanny) or preconceived crazy black woman….there is not enough representation of different characters, individualism is ignored on a worldwide scale. The narrow stereotype works against the black womxn when we are not acting in this preconceived role the next step is to label us crazy.
I now more than anything seek individuals who know they have the ability to adapt and assimilate but choose to put their energy into better things. In places where it can be replenished. Whether you have bleached, want to bleach, still bleaching I love you because it takes courage and confidence to take steps. Continue to travel. Self discovery is a journey. Also you might not want to take advice from people who ate people as the norm for survival. If we look past what the media feeds us we will find better solutions.
Tips to help explore our emotions.
Express how you feel, use your intuition to find the right person to talk to. Write it down and email it to yourself. Note these feelings down and analyse where it stems from. Do not give away your power, which is your free thinking. If you love yourself beyond your appearance you will understand the beauty of your inward power. You will understand your beauty full stop. Well done for surviving this far but now you must thrive, let the Goddess in you fly.
Shot by Sam Travis