The population of Jamaica is about 97% black, but it wasn’t until 1968 when Karlene Waddell, became the first black woman to win the Miss Jamaica title. Many of the black winners since have features that many could describe as more Eurocentric or less African in appearance.
As an English-speaking, majority Afro-descent society, skin tone plays a significant role in the desirability stakes and it has become the trend for many to apply dangerous chemicals to leach the melanin out of their skin.
There’s a soap advert from my youth I remember aired regularly on Jamaican TV. In it, several black people are relaxing by the poolside. Suddenly, a svelte light-skinned woman emerges from the water oozing oodles of sex appeal. Her hair is long and silky, and her skin is very light coloured. All the men sit up, paying attention to her soft curves and smooth caramel tones. The women stare on in equal parts admiration and envy at her glowing skin and luscious locks. A voice-over booms in a rich baritone announcing the name of the soap and proclaims, “for the complexion you want.”
Our preoccupation with skin tone is not a uniquely Jamaican thing, its pervasive in many black cultures, and particularly those with histories set in juxtaposition to white colonisation.
On this episode, we explore some of the elements of colourism that affect us as black people, we talk about interracial dating and whether the concept of upholding whiteness as aspirational is a real problem in some of our communities.
Check out this music video by Ghetts, mentioned on the episode.
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