Skin Colour Controversy.

English: Tanned arm

English: Tanned arm

“You look so stunningly beautiful, I love the colour of your skin, the tan colour.  Isn’t she looking good? It’s just perfect.” I broadly smiled and nodded in agreement. I love the colour of my skin immensely and I would not change it for anything for I believe the Creator saw it good. I have received thousands of compliments over my skin and mostly from my white colleagues.

Life is a mystery in a way, and my mind drifted back into my motherland, Zimbabwe, where I grew up knowing that majority of the society had preferred lighter skin or fairer skin to darker skin. As I grew up I saw a lot of people attracted to people with light skin. It was much easier for a person who had a fairer skin to have more friends, liked, and gets promoted more easily at work. Whenever a white person came or visited the community, he or she would be easily surrounded by the crowd and get an upper class welcome. White people would be considered well educated and someone to listen to. Most people yearned to be associated with them and saw it as a prestige, that one would boast and tell the world that he or she has a white friend or boss.

I witnessed a number of women in African society using some bleaching cosmetics, and their main goals or objectives were or are still to look lighter or fairer in completion.  Why would one want to bleach the skin? I believe to lure the opposite sex. The opposite sex, the men, and today the statistics still reveals that that majority of them prefer the lighter or fairer skinned girls over the darker ones especially in some black communities. I have witnessed some incidents whereby dark skinned females or women were invariably subjected to unfair and bias negative stereotypes.

I would like to take you, the reader, back into ancient times, straight into the bible and see that tales about the skin and beauty are also biblical and began centuries ago. Therefore we are only passing it on from generation to generation. The Book of Esther Chapter 2 verse 3; Let the king appoint the commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all the beautiful girls into the harem citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let the beauty treatments be given to them. On verse 12, it says: Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. In summary of this story, the King Xerves, was looking for one pleasing girl who would find favour in him after the Queen Vashiti disobeyed him. He wanted to see all beautiful virgin girls and then after the parade he would choose one. The king thought the best way to see their real beauty and was to offer these beautiful girls the beauty therapy for a year. After that treatment he found himself attracted to Esther more than any other beautiful girls. Esther became the Queen.

The skin colour controversy is an idea that has visited me recently and I juggled with it in my mind, it is because of my background where I grew up I saw things from a different angle and came to believe that it’s only the black person who wanted to be white, or prefer much fairer girls but as I grew older and mature the other side of the angle revealed things differently. The path became more exciting to follow and to talk about. Having been in Britain, and living among the whites I saw a revelation that I would probably not have encountered if I remained on the other side of the world. I noticed a world of “tan” around me.

How could it be this? White people loving more the black colour, the tan colour. Some white colleagues openly confessed with their mouth they wish that they had a natural tan colour. If this was their desire what would they do? Thanks to technology, they go sun bathing, and use artificial cosmetics and spray fake tan on themselves. Today in the western countries the tanning is fast growing industry valued at 6 billion pounds.

English: A Sunvision Elite tanning bed switche...

English: A Sunvision Elite tanning bed switched off.

Sun tanning or simply tanning is the process whereby the skin colour is darkened or tanned. The process is most often a result of exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds or a result of windburn or reflected light. Many people purposely tan their skin by exposure to the sun.

According to olden times tanning like any other stuff you may know has gone in and out of fashion. In western countries before 1920s, tanned skin was associated with lower class people and lower class work, which would have commonly been out door. In those years women even went so far as to put lead-based cosmetics on their skin to artificially whiten their tan. It is believed that even when strictly monitored these cosmetics caused lead poisoning. Achieving a light skinned appearance was achieved in so many ways, such as the use of lightening powders, arsenic to whiten the skin. Other methods were to wear long garments when outdoors and use parasols.  In the western countries the preference for fairer skin continued until the end of the Victorian era.

By the early twentieth century the therapeutic benefits of sunlight products began to be recognised. Vitamin D deficiency was found to be the cause of the rickets disease and other infectious diseases such as aslupus-vulgaris. An exposure to the sun would allow Vitamin D to be produced in person’s body. As a result sun exposure was an antidote curing several diseases especially rickets. In 1910 a scientific voyage went to Tenerife to test the wider benefits of “heliotherapy” and by 1913 Sunbathing is referred to as a prescribed activity for the leisure class

Some drastic changes began to emerge in the 40s as adverts appeared in the women’s magazines, which encouraged sun bathing. At the same time the swimsuits began to reduce in size with the bikini radically changing the swimsuit style after it made its appearance. In the 50s more and more white people began to use baby oil as a method to increase tanning. Man-Tan was the first self tanner but unfortunately the results were undesirable, as it turned orange. In the later years the silver metallic UV reflectors were common to enhance the tan. In  1962 the sunscreen started to be SPF rated. As the years progressed, more and more tanning products were introduced such as tanning lotion and then the appearance of the tanning bed.

The skin colour controversy has a journey in human life, a journey that nobody knows the outcome. The tan, the darker colour was treated less favourably and so many dark skinned people endured the prejudice associated to the skin. A skin of slavery, one that was not entitled to marry to a white man or white woman, one that was not entitled to lead the world, one that was entitled to accept any form of rubbish to be thrown upon it, one that was entitled to hardship, segregation, discrimination and racial abuse in all different parts of the world. How resilient is the colour? That today all the prejudices associated with the skin are simply vanishing but to treat individual according to his or her ability but not by the colour of the skin. The skin colour that makes the majority spend their money just to look tanned just for a minute, a day, a week, months or years.

As an independent beauty consultant I have faced some challenges from my black colleagues whereby a customer would want a much fairer foundation even it does not complement with her skin. In most cases I would go to the basics of beauty and deliver a lesson. Once I delivered it they would began to understand the importance of the skin colour code and that foundation has to look natural on their skin. Preferring a much fairer foundation when you are a little darker might end up looking like a ghost and then you might blame the beauty consultant for not advising you the right colour.

The skin colour controversy is a topic that touches all of us to the core but I believe the Creator was immensely creative. He saw the beauty of different colours, shapes, and sizes that we human beings failed at first to recognise. He cleverly sends this message in all His creations, the trees, the animals, the birds, the mountains, the rivers, the deserts, the seas, and the oceans. Why fighting over the skin? In his Creation he created one race, which is the human beings. Did I send a message to you? Please begin to appreciate the colour of your skin.


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