Saturday, November 21, 2009

get inside the heads of non-white people

The recent change in retired ballplayer Sammy Sosa's appearance raises a question most famously asked of Michael Jackson -- did he or didn't he?

Did they, that is, intentionally lighten their skin? And then, if either one did, was it an effort to look more "white," more European? Or just to look "better"?

Regarding Michael Jackson, I'm in the camp that believes his skin grew progressively lighter not because he wanted it to, but instead because he had Vitiligo. But then, what about certain forms of plastic surgery he had? Were his narrowed lips and disappearing nose an effort to become merely more attractive? Or were they efforts to become more attractive by the racist measure of white/European standards?

As for Sosa, he apparently says that his lightened skin is a result of a cream he purchased in Europe "in a bid to soften his sun-damaged skin." But then, according to msnbc, the product itself is indeed a "skin lightening product," and Sosa is currently thinking about swelling his bank accounts by endorsing the product.

And then there 's those green contacts that Sosa seems to be wearing in the after photo [?]. . . Is Sammy Sosa whitening himself? If he's instead trying just to "look better," is he necessarily exhibiting symptoms of the pernicious mental and emotional condition known as Internalized Racism?

Among the most sad and even horrific symptoms of this deep-set disorder are the many ways in which non-white people alter their appearances in order to look more "white." I think another common sign of internalized racism, and of de facto white supremacy more generally, is the claim that such people are not doing so to look more white; they're instead said to be "deracializing" themselves.

That's a term used repeatedly in the following British TV show on cosmetic surgery and lightening skin creams -- "deracialization." Of course, while many non-white people who want to look better choose ways that de-emphasize their racial features, they also choose new features that match up with those of Europeans.

In this respect, when non-white people alter their appearance in order to "look better," rather than to consciously look more like people of European descent, their efforts are often, nevertheless, a response to white hegemony. By "hegemony," I mean the power of white people to mask their political, economic, and cultural dominance as something else -- something normal, ordinary, and seemingly natural. As ethnic studies scholar George Lipsitz wrote over a decade ago, “as the unmarked category against which difference is constructed, whiteness never has to speak its name, never has to acknowledge its role as an organizing principle in social and cultural relations.”

The following episode of Channel 4's fascinating television series, "Race: Science's Last Taboo," focuses on facial features, and the efforts of three non-white individuals in England to drastically alter their own faces. BEWARE, though, if you decide to watch it; I found this program fascinating, instructive, and ultimately heartbreaking, but it contains very graphic flashes of plastic surgery (as well as a brief glimpse of a supposedly inadequate penis).

I think while this program may be sensationalistic in some ways, it's graphic elements make it a true and pointed horror movie. Its point, for me, is an instructive reminder of the ongoing, pervasive, and insidious power of white supremacy, and how incredibly brutal it can be to the identities and bodies of non-white people.

This program also makes me wonder (as I briefly explain below) -- how long will this insidious cultural abuse go on? Cosmetic surgery and other methods of "enhancement" are becoming far cheaper and more available; but, will the decline of the West, in numerical, financial, and other terms, eventually inspire fewer non-white people to resort to such methods in other to "deracialize" themselves?

As I said above, I wonder if the decline of the West, and of the U.S. especially, will result in fewer people seeking to "beautify" themselves in these drastic, self-mutilating ways. Actually, I expect that it will; I just don't know how soon that will happen.

In a recent interview, Martin Jacques discussed his book, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. I'm suspicious of this white British author's claims to in-depth knowledge about "the Chinese" and how they "operate," but he does inspire thought about how the growing dominance of China is going to play out, not just in economic and geopolitical terms, but also in cultural ones:

MARTIN JACQUES: [By] 2050, the Chinese economy will be twice the size of that of the American economy. This represents -- of course, it’s quite a long and protracted process, but it will fundamentally shift the economic center of gravity in the world, and will have also profound political and cultural implications.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about those implications.

MARTIN JACQUES: Well, there’s been a funny old assumption in the West somehow that China’s rise is just an economic story. If you go to the bookstores and look at what’s been written about the rise of China, it’s almost solely economic, in a contemporary sense. But this is obviously ridiculous, because the rise of a new global power always ushers in the expression of a much more comprehensive political, cultural, intellectual, military, moral influence, and this will in time happen with China.

And that’s why I argue the end of the Western world -- not that the West is going to meet its maker and, you know, there’s going to be the demise of the West. On the contrary, I mean, America will get richer, as other Western countries will get richer. But it will no longer shape the world, as it has in the last sixty years, or the West, in general. For 200 years, we’ve lived in a Western-shaped world. That era is progressively going to come to an end, as China becomes more and more influential. And you can see this already happening in certain parts of the world, much more than in the West. I mean, East Asia is already being increasingly shaped by Chinese influence of many different kinds.

Does this profound change, or shift -- which, as Jacques goes on to claim, is already happening -- mean that fewer and fewer non-white people will seek what amount to whitened features? Might we even get to the point where the opposite happens, with a lot of white people longing for, and paying for, non-white features?

Of course, the latter is already happening, in some ways. White people have long intentionally darkened or "tanned" their skin, for instance. And as I understand it, increasing numbers of white women are paying for bigger booties -- excuse me, make that "buttock augmentation." According to a plastic-surgeon-finder site, "Regardless of the origin of this growing trend, it appears that the butt is rapidly replacing breasts as the new point of emphasis, the new 'new thing.'”

What do you think? Where is all this racialized "self-enhancement" going?


  1. Those are not green contacts, his eyes are hazel in both photos.

  2. Ugh, I wish I knew where all of this was going. There is a part of me that feels annoyed and saddened by the choices of Sosa and others' before him. If in fact they equate their pigment with self-worth for racial/cultural/political reasons. BUT there is also a part of me that feels it's possible that it isn't all that deep and much like hair color or breast/buttock augmentation it is a purely superficial choice about appearances and a personal rather than racial/cutural/political choice. Of course Sosa and Jackson also present a gender issue in that masculinity and vanity are two topics that don't exactly jibe in the Western world...especially Black/Latino men and vanity...and we're back on race again. I just can't call it. Thoroughly thought provoking post, indeed.

  3. I'm pretty sure Sosa's eye color didn't change. I remember his eyes being greenish, and if you look even at those two photos they look the same. In the big picture, that's irrelevant anyway.

    In the Arab world, "Pale and Lovely" cream is a huge seller - lighter skin is strongly valued. I don't believe it's a modern thing, as there's plenty of literature that indicates "white" has always been better, but that doesn't really make it less racist, does it?

    I don't know, the whole thing terrifies me. I am staunchly opposed to plastic surgery of ANY kind (except say, after someone is disfigured, or in the case of an actual deviated septum); I don't understand this obsession with youth and perfection and skinniness. It's disgusting.

  4. I think they are contacts I've seen other pics of him and his eyes were darker. Michael Jackson had vitilgo it was even confirmed in the post mortem thing. I don't put Jackson's alternating appearance in a racial aspect for many reasons.

    What I found intresting with Sosa is that many people wanted to belive that he had a skin condition and not that he was doing it purposedly which make me think is it because he is a man? because those questions were not asked was not asked about Lil Kim.

  5. Why is it that white people can tan their skin, inject fillers into their lips, do their make-up to look "exotic", and dye their hair with no problems, but all Asians are trying to "be white". White people need to get over themselves. Whites are not the only ones with light skin, round eyes, double lids, blonde hair, etc.

  6. Funny cuz the "booty" has been a focus for "us" since day one. It took J-Lo to make it mainstream. lol

    People have issues and after a while you kind of want to just say whatever and let folk do whatever they want.

  7. Aiyo, I googled up Sosa, you are right.

    I thought perhaps it was the light making his eyes look lighter, but brown eyes usually look chestnut under extreme light, not hazel.

  8. it's disgusting. that's all i can say. I'm 24 Years old and dark skinned. The last time i was thinking about getting lighter is 10 Years ago and just because i live in Germany a almost 100% white society....

  9. @Cloudy, co-sign, but co-sign Macon D, too. I'm also troubled by this a dangerous way to surgically change eye color -- it's usually expressly touted as a way for people with brown eyes and POCs to get blue or green eyes.

    Something else I've noticed is how POC with brown eyes will often claim their eyes are hazel and POC with hazel or light brown eyes will claim their eyes are green. Even though you can actually see their eye color they keep stating their eye color is something different to reach a white standard of beauty. Of course, even white people do this to be more Nordic. White women bleach their hair for that Scandinavian look, and I had a white friend who would argue you down that her beautiful gray eyes were blue...

  10. This is just sad and disgusting all around. I'm a light-skinned black woman (hence the name) and I still encounter racism and sexism (non-exclusive as well). Lightness doesn't take away racism!!! Why can't darker-skinned POCs grasp that concept.

  11. I'm torn on this, really. Macon, while I agree that the issue of hegemony is omnipresent, I find the idea that people can't "borrow" certain cosmetic practices across cultures, as it were, to be slightly off. The association between "Bluest Eye" self-hatred and choosing to do something different with your hair, or even your skin tone, falls along a very wide continuum.

    If you think about it, cosmetic "cross pollination" has occurred since time immemorial. From my POV, the problem is when the dominant culture, Western white culture, attempts to reinforce a double-standard laden hierarchy that debases what people are in their natural state. Meaning, I shouldn't be forced to relax my hair with lye products if my hair and body chemistry doesn't take well to them. Some black women's hair does; mine doesn't. However, unlike in younger days, when I feared others "de-blacking" me for choosing something different, I don't knock sisters for choosing yakky straight hair over naps, or vice-versa.

    Now as dark-skinned black woman, I was shocked and confused by Sosa's new "look." And while I don't ever see myself heading in that direction, I think people need to chill with the anger and disgust I've seen about it. What Sammy does is what he does. He is not obligated to discuss his reasons with anyone. And the specualtion, which makes us all human, doesn't mean we're entitled to a response.

    I'm saving to have a nose job, and I can't wait until it's done. I won't be telling my friends, especially a few that are heavily invested in "BlackThink," until I'm out of the recovery room. Why? Because my broad nose, in all its regal African-ness, is better suited for a male face, at least in my opinion. Being in my mid-30's, I want to marry before I'm too old to enjoy sex, and heterosexual women with strong masculine features, -- though some do mate and are quite happy with themselves -- don't always have as good a go of it, at least in the U.S. That's life. Shall I spend my days unhappy because another person, be they black or white, considers my reshaped schnozz proof that I'm a self-hating black person? Please.

  12. @ T.Allen-Mercado

    >> "it is a purely superficial choice about appearances and a personal rather than racial/cutural/political choice."

    The thing is, though, that even our personal "superficial choices about appearances" are shaped by racial and cultural ideals of what it is good to look like. So even if a person thinks, "Oh, I'm just doing XYZ to look prettier," it is important to look at where that standard of beauty (or "beauty") comes from.

  13. @honeybrown, while I've heard the argument that having more Euro features can lessen racism, I've never heard anyone of any complexion argue that it erases it. However, it's wildly ignorant for you to make blanket statements about "darker-skinned POCs."

    @Madame, I read your comment and feel so bad for you. African features are not "masculine," and that kind of thinking comes from racism. I'm sure your nose is beautiful and I wish you could see that.

  14. Perhaps, and this is a long shot, it is the counter-consequence of global media where mostly slender, thinner, 'whiter' actors, icons and actors are portrayed. We all talk about those icons, and inevitably want to look a little more like'em.
    But hey Sosa, it's ok, 'Get down with your brown'. =P

  15. B., perhaps you need to get the memo out to those darker-skinned POCs that continue to tell me otherwise. Honestly, some do not grasp the concept. In addition, how is it ignorant for me to state this when some individuals are doing otherwise? It's ignorant to act as though it doesn't occur simply because you've never dealt with it. Save the attempt to give me a crash course on Colorism, please. It happens both ways.

  16. I think that people have it all wrong about Micheal Jackson and to some degree about Sammy.I have never met a black person who wants to look or be white. If they desire to alter their phenotype,it is to look "mixed". Whites do not tan to look like Africans,but for a more mediteranian "exotic" look.It blacks want to be white,it is because of the benifits that they think comes with white skin ( ie,better treatment, more opportunities). Micheal Jackson had a skin disease and suffered painful burns in his head. If we look at the way he died we see that he was addicted to anesthesia. The only way to get is through surgery. A small nip here and tuck there to get the drug and suddenly he looked funny. Sammys skin looked a little blotchy. I think he chose the wrong cream to fix it. White people are not the standard of beauty anymore. Mixed people are.

  17. i absolutely second B, madame CJ; leave your nose AS IT IS! i'm sure it's fine-as was michael jackson's 'birth nose'. his reconstructed, pointy new one was no improvement...

    when i was a kid-a total WASP in WASPland-i wanted to have brown skin. not really white skin w/a tan, but natural, smooth, medium dark, brown skin. this wasn't a racial thing, it just seemed SELF-EVIDENT to my 11 y/o mind that brown was better than pallid.

    not only that, but i also would have preferred to have 'asian' eyes-w/the epicanthic fold...oh yes, i also wanted a big, hooked nose, a 'roman nose.'

    i'd stand in front of the mirror and use both hands to manipulate my face into this bizarre combination of features...

  18. Tantastic, mixed people are the new flavor of the month; but, we are certainly not the beauty standard. That's a more than a little naive to state.

    I still believe that Michael had Vitiligo (or at least, I hope that was the actual case). Sammy, on the other hand, is a different case.

  19. There are centuries of history in China and Japan, for example, of women wearing pale makeup (often with red lips, plucked and redrawn higher brows, and blush) to be "more beautiful." (Sometimes the makeup standards were quite different--in some periods of Chinese history, yellow lead was in.) Many of these makeup products were toxic--white lead, yellow lead, red lead, vermilion (mercury sulfate)--some were not, like rice powder and plant dyes.

    All of this happened long before European contact, and in periods when European contact was avoided. Why did these women want to look paler? Often, class reasons--looking paler meant you weren't laboring in the sun. There were probably other reasons as well.

    Similarly, European women in the Middle Ages also strove for paler skin--again, not to distinguish themselves from women of other races, but from commoners.

    I don't think it's correct to view all desires for paler skin as desire for white-race-ness. So no, I don't think many of these practices will disappear as white people become less culturally dominant. People have chosen (or felt pressured to) to alter their appearances since time immemorial for countless reasons--some of them about race and some of them not.

  20. My Filipino aunt lightened her skin.

    In Portugal, only poor people had to work outside, so it was good to be very pale and chubby (showing that you didn't have to do any manual labor).

    Skinny, dark-skinned women were considered "field workers" and thus less attractive.

    My husband says that this is also true in Mexico, where women with means regularly bleach their skin and hair.

  21. On the topic of Michael Jackson: photographic and testimony from his make-up artists prove that he suffered from vitiligo. In between releasing Thriller and Bad, the vitiligo got so extensive (covering over 50% of his body) that they decided to use white make-up to cover up the dark spots instead. This was all proven, so it's not a matter of "belief".

    As for the facial surgeries: the nose shrinking was done as a result of emotional trauma he allegedly suffered from his father, who constantly made fun of his nose. (Note that this was not related to race.)

    The other surgeries were, he claimed, not remarkable since so many people in his industry (in fact, in the public media altogether) have plastic surgeries. They were indeed more invasive and apparent than others' but nonetheless he wasn't doing anything particularly unusual considering his context.

  22. On the topic of the growth of China's economy: I have lived in south-east Asia for the majority of my life and I must say that white features are popular, to an extent, here in Asia too. Women use skin-lightening products and treatments, though they are not extreme.

    However, this image is not white-centric since it has different standards of beauty - in general, more neutral features and straight black hair are favoured. The image comes from the Asian superstars (generally they come from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan), who have created their own look quite separate from that of other parts of the world. Yes, these standards are informed by western beauty - fair skin and bigger eyes are seen as more beautiful - but the influence of the west is less than you might expect since the people in this region have quite minimal contact with Caucasians. Those who pursue a white look tend do so on an individual level. This varies from country to country however: in Korea for example, "double eyelid" surgery is common because it is seen as a mark of (westernised) beauty, and genetically they usually don't have them.

    As for how this will influence the beauty standards of the west, I couldn't say. I expect the United States will try to hold on to its own standards of beauty since it has always been a rather isolated country in terms of culture. It will be interesting to see how it plays out nevertheless!

  23. A part of why whites tan is for status - a tan represents the luxury of leisure time to spend doing nothing. This is a bit different to how it used to be when the hallmark of leisure time for whites was pale skin - tans were 'what manual labourers had'.

    There are also other reasons, such as health (I need to tan a small amount due to a mild skin problem) or work (going to be working in the sun, better get a preliminary tan), but the only people I know who go for heavy tans are those in it for the status.

  24. EPT and others, I agree that whites who intentionally tan typically do it for reasons other than racial envy.

    Over at Racism Review, Adia Harvey has a post up about Sosa's internalized racism, and in the comments she offers the following point that even though whites tend to tan for other reasons, they nevertheless do so within a racial hierarchy:

    [R]egarding whites and tanning, Margaret Hunter addresses that in her book on colorism. I quote her here: “White women who tan and want to make their lips bigger are not engaging in the same racial change practices that women of color are at all. White women are free to dabble in cosmetic procedures without ever losing their racial status as white. A tan white woman is still a white woman. A light skinned or Anglo-featured woman of color, however, can expect different treatment, and a greater share of resources, because she seems closer to white or may be perceived as mixed race” (Hunter 2005, 66). I think this is an excellent point that underscores the racial hierarchy of these procedures -– one that is easy to overlook and forget. It’s easy to think, whites tan, blacks lighten, so everyone wants to change, and thus put it in a de-racialized context. However, as research shows, tanning can be simple fun and aesthetics for whites, b/c they never lose their privileged racial status. For blacks, however, lightening has established material consequences. So it’s hardly a raceless decision or one that indicates post-raciality, but a decision that reflects and reinforces the existing racial hierarchy.

    And by the way, the before-and-after photos of Sosa at Adia Harvey's post also show more clearly than mine do the difference in the color of his eyes.

  25. Actually, tanning is somewhat racialized, or at least it's origin is. Coco Chanel started the trend, when she came back from a vacation with her skin bronzed, she was praised for her "exotic" look. Around the same time, Josephine Baker had become a Parisian icon and many women sought to achieve her "caramel" complexion.

    And Rich, blepharoplasty is NOT about having "westernized" eyes, that's a really racist and eurocentric way of viewing it. Some Asians have the double fold, some do not. Many Indians, for example, have very prominant double lids, and India is in Asia. So why does no one say "Oh you're trying to look more Indian"? Because it's assumed by others that white is a universal standard of beauty. I would equate the use of surgery or eye tape to white women who dye their hair blonde. Most white women are not naturally blonde, so they seek to emulate the small amount of people within their race that possess that particular ideal feature.

  26. B and Randy, thank you for your concern, really, but I'd say that your feeling "bad" for me is misplaced. Would you react the same way if someone with a severely cleft palate, or some other cranio-facial disfiguration said something similar? Like it or not, women are judged by different beauty standards, not only by men, but their peers. I don't choose to adhere to all of them, mostly because I want to enjoy my life and don't intend to run myself crazy; however, this is one thing I can control.

    I've been a dark-skinned black woman and suffered the prejudices and blessings associated with it my entire life. I'm also well versed in sociology, psychology, and history, along with African and African-American studies. I know the history of colorism and self-hatred in our communities across class tiers. So believe me, no one needs to school me about broadness of my nose, or how African features aren't masculine or bad. I'm not saying that. I believe my choice will enhance a look that, at least for me, is overlooked and sometimes ridiculed. As this discussion shows, we're all aware of women across cultures who do the same. If you want to get at the heart of the issue, at least for heterosexual women like me, let's discuss how quickly some people line up to discourage cosmetic changes, yet they wouldn't look at that person twice (pre-surgery) for a date -- or worse, talk shit about that "horse faced" woman on their own time.

    I recently chewed out some ignorant people at my office about South African track star Caster Semenya. Think about how this talented young woman has been treated by the media and just about everyone else with an opinion. Yeah, race has something to do with it, but it's much more than that. And while some women may choose to just accept these things, to protect themselves psychologically, I'm taking a different route, the one that's best for me and my needs. Does that make me wrong and in need of someone else's pity? Hell, no. Life ain't fair or egalitarian, nor will it ever be, and while it's always necessary to pursue higher goals, biting the bullet shouldn't always seen as throwing in the towel. Sometimes it's about taking control.

    Bottom line is this: Many people seem to think a nose job will send the recipient to Michael Jackson's Neverland, especially if they're black. That's just pure nonsense, and if you look around I believe plenty of folks have "gone there" but just haven't told anybody because of the self-righteous and occasionally ill-informed responses they'd ultimately receive. Just cause you wouldn't do it for reasons of racial pride (or whatever) doesn't necessarily mean it's not good for someone else. So please, no more "I feel sorry for you." It's insulting and sends the message that person doesn't know their own mind.

  27. I also heard that tanning has it's origins in a class-based connotation as opposed to race based: If you can get a tan, that means you can afford a vacation to an exotic place. (My guess is that this started after they invented passenger planes. And in the colonial days tanning was probably not in vogue since it would mean you look more like the locals.)

    And white skin in Asia also often has a class-based connotation: White skin means you don't work in the sun like a farmer. And because white is considered better anyways, this then in turn creates the perception that white people are also better, and couple that with 300+ years of gazing at the white colonizers who indeed occupied the upper echelons of society. So it's sort of like - the chicken and egg story.

    As for Indian features - true (about their features being Asian too). But I also sometimes hear people refer to north Indian features as 'more Aryan', hence 'better'. And when you hear that, you do kinda wonder if whiteness is the culprit after all.

    Btw, I used to wish I was taller, with a pointier nose, thinner lips, and double-fold eyelids. For me, I'm sure it had a lot to do with how popularity worked in school and the Western media I was watching, though I didn't really interpret it as such as a kid. (Not that I'd ever get a surgery.) Now I like all my features as they are and not sure why I ever worried about them in the first place.

    My ethnic Chinese cousins used to put tapes on their eyelids to create folds in them. But I'm not sure whether in their case it was due to the Western media or because there's some prejudice towards 'slant eyed' ethnic Chinese in the Southeast Asian region they grew up in...or perhaps big eyes have always been the rage? (I heard somewhere that our biological preference is for large eyes because they signify youth...but I'm not sure where I heard this or if it is true.)

  28. Sorry to go on a tangent, but this is from macon's Adia Harvey link...oh my gossshhhh.

    "Thus, white slave owners could actually increase their profits by fathering children with slave women, a process which often came about through forcible rape."

    Call me naive, but for some reason this never occurred to me. It's horrifying. (Speaking of which...'fathering children to make money' sort of reminds me of the whole sperm bank issue too).

    "In some cases (but not all), the children of these unions were favored by white men. On rare occasions, they even went so far as to free these children or treat them in a completely humane fashion."

    Gosh, it's just weird how treating someone humanely is talked of as something oh-so-unusually-kind...

  29. @Madame CJ Walker,

    I think you bring up an interesting point and something that I struggle with myself. There's a difference between coming to this blog and pointing out all the racist intentions and motivations and living your life. I mentioned in a comment on a previous post that I choose to turn a blind eye to many of the comments made by my colleagues that could be interpreted as and probably are racist, sexist, elitist, etc. I do this because at the end of the day, I have to live my life, and I have to communicate and interact with my colleagues. While I am for change and more people recognizing racism, I'm not yet ready to be a martyr. I'm not yet ready to sacrifice my career or other things important to me to be a martyr. This doesn't mean either that I am always silent. When I feel that I can point out the racism around me in a manner that doesn't have adverse effects for my life, I do.

    My sister has expressed the same sentiments when it comes to dating. She's shaved her hair off before and has expressed desires to do it again if it weren't for the difficulty in getting a date that came with it. And I agree with you. It's easy to stand there and say that such and such a feature is beautiful "and I wish you could see it too," but it's quite another to actually consider someone with it for a date.

  30. Speaking on skin-lightening alone, I think it's mostly an underlying hold-over from the days of skin color being a marker of class rank. You find this in many areas which have been colonized by whites. In the US, blacks were brought here and colonized and I view it in the same light.

    Whiteness has been an indicator of success in the past. And today, there is still an unspoken favoritism for lighter skinned blacks and Latinos. Take, for example, that I can't think of a single mainstream movie starring black people somehow, but geared toward a white audience, that doesn't have Halle Berry in it. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm just saying that I've gone to the ends of my mind and can't think of one. If the black actors in a movie are darker than a certain shade, the movie quietly shifts to being a "black" film and not picked up by the mainstream.

    My point is that although we're all not in favor of people lightening their skin for class, fame and whatever - we still have these underlying codes of success based on being light-skinned. I don't know the motives in Sosa's case, because he's already achieved "success" even in the eyes of whites, but I don't discount the idea that he was raised in a country in which being lighter gave privilege and he may have not forgotten that. I think it's ingrained in the minds of colonized people since birth and is very hard to shake for some people.

    White people have already gotten into the heads of non-white people for hundreds of years. It's so pervasive that even non-white people get into the heads of other non-white people because of it. Now white people don't have to do the work. They can simply perpetuate it by casting Halle Berry as a favorable lead character and not consider bringing darker-skinned women into those roles. It obvious that it's perfectly normal to pass them over and keep darker skinned actors existing and being famous only in black films. I could take this further but I'm just trying to say that whites are still segregating and valuing lighter skinned blacks. Just because you can think of some exceptions here and there, doesn't mean it's not so.

  31. Yes! Loved this post. An internalized racism makes it even more difficult to be a person of color sometimes in U.S. but also abroad because you are reminded constantly of what and whose standards are considered the correct way and best. Fortunately there are people who do not believe nor feel that eurocentric standards should determine who they are. And I applaud them for being who they are not what society tells them they should be. BTW, Sammy Sosa looked far better and handsome before he changed his skin tone the same goes for Michael Jackson!

  32. "And I agree with you. It's easy to stand there and say that such and such a feature is beautiful "and I wish you could see it too," but it's quite another to actually consider someone with it for a date."

    It's not my business what Madame CJ chooses to do, but as someone vehemently opposed to unnecessary cosmetic surgery (in any scenario, regardless of race), I guess I don't understand why you would ever WANT to be with someone who doesn't love you for who you are by birth. We are who we are for a reason, and I don't understand changing that permanently.

  33. Jillian, I respect that you're opposed to cosmetic surgery under any circumstances. The problem comes when that opposition becomes a collective tsk-tsk'ing, if not outright public shaming of those who share a different opinion. It's worse when it's masked in the veneer of race disloyalty. My favorite cousin, who suffered from a condition as child that left her with some physical disabilities, in addition to struggling with her weight, ripped the rose-colored glasses off my eyes about this one day. Of course I love her for who she is, always will, but I can empathize with how she wouldn't always feel good about herself after some 25+ years of not having fulfilled her desire for a partner. She has a bright and shining personality, definitely more pronounced than mine, yet she feels denied something she's wanted because of these issues. Still, even she acknowledges that *some* men who don't look twice at her because of their preference for thinner women aren't ogres. The gray area is much wider and more nuanced than some hard core "we should just love people for who they are" folks would like the rest of us to believe. If she chose to pursue corrective surgery, or if she didn't, I'd support her either way. As long as it doesn't cause her harm.

    More than anything, I'd try to understand where she was coming from before jumping in on my high horse and telling her it's not the right thing to do. I often believe people from privileged positions --the ones who've benefitted from their looks, their money, their connections, their able-bodied status, their education, or whatever -- are often the first and worst ones to tell those with fewer privileges what they should and shouldn't do out of some sense of moral authority. I wish people would get off it. If that makes you and others here feel uncomfortable, good. You have every right to disagree and reject this as an option for yourself, but try a little empathy as you microscope the "intent" behind someone else's actions. And there are definite demarcations between empathy, moral posturing, and pity.

    MaconD, thank you for allowing me to share my opinions here, though they might be unpopular.

  34. Interesting...I already saw this on another blog and commented there.

    This man bleaching his skin is nothing but self hatred. No matter how much you bleach your skin to look White, you will never be accepted as a White person. FACT.

    As far as the eyes go, it looks as though he has the green/hazel contacts in both pictures. This man's natural eye colour is brown.

    Of course he is not the only one, we have Black people bleaching their skin to become White and White people tanning their skin to become Black.

    What a funny old world we live in.

  35. And Rich, blepharoplasty is NOT about having "westernized" eyes, that's a really racist and eurocentric way of viewing it. Some Asians have the double fold, some do not.

    There is also a trend among darker-skinned Chinese to lighten their skin to look like the lighter-skinned Chinese.

    With Sammy Sosa, the assumption is that he's trying to look "more white." Darker skinned Chinese aren't trying to look "more white." They're trying to look "more like light-skinned Chinese." If it weren't "whiteness" that Sammy Sosa were trying to associate himself with, it might have been some other lighter-skinned aesthetic benchmark that he would be seeking after.

    If macon thinks that the change in America's dominant cultural position relative to other countries will cause fewer cases like Sammy Sosa, he's wrong.

  36. @Madame, the fact that you compare having a broad nose with having a cleft palette makes me think you need self esteem work not surgery. I bet your nose is great. I don't mean this condescendingly at all, but please keep in mind that many if not all the best plastic surgeons make patients see a psychologist before they get nose jobs. And if you're saying to them what you're saying on this board -- they might not approve your surgery. I'd rather you have a heads up on that now (in case you didn't know) than save up your money and not be able to get the surgery for that reason. And really, do you want to marry somebody who wouldn't have you with your God-given features?

  37. I'm enjoying the people insisting that these things are not race related. As a black woman, watching that video really hurt, because I remember having similar thoughts as a kid and hoping that I'd wake up and have lighter eyes and long straight hair like a white girl.

    I lived in a black neighborhood, was around black people all the time and I felt these feelings very early in my childhood. My parents tried to instill racial pride in me by buying me black baby dolls and barbies, but I always hated those. Why? Because the white dolls were always the most popular dolls and it was obvious.

    I can't even count how many times I wanted to be lighter or all the times I've heard kids(black) use having darker skin as an insult. My own mother has used skin lightening creams her whole life and I used them from about middle school up until I left for college five years ago.

    I don't really think about that stuff too much and I've recently been trying to wear my hair more naturally(although I caved and relaxed it a few months ago). This really brought back a lot of old feelings. I really appreciate this post.

  38. I just want to bring up one point when it comes to skin whitening/paleness. While I'm sure certain people are experiencing some sort of racial motivation behind they're skin regimen, in some cultures lighter pigment skin has been the ideal for beauty since WAY before they met white people. Hell, the Chinese preference for lighter skin has existed for longer than any civilization in Europe has. In fact, the main Chinese creation myth states that a goddess formed man from the golden silt from a riverbed at first; but as the silt ran out she had to resort to using regular mud for her later creations. Those that were made of the silt became the aristocracy while the mud people became the commoners. So, even if China were to literally take over the world tomorrow, a certain subset of Chinese women would still highly value pale skin for all eternity.
    Its also common in many cultures to at some point in their development to value lighter skin more, as a way to differentiate between low born laborers and aristocrats. Such views tend to carry over into the modern day in some form or another. Though cultures that have been conquered by white people more than likely had these values pushed upon them rather than developed them on their own.
    So, while if Sammy and Mike whitened themselves it would most likely due to racially based influences, there are cultures out there that value lighter skin own their own.

  39. Omg the daughter from Bangladesh made me want to tear up.

  40. People like Sammy, Micheal and the British woman in the video clip are not changing because they want to be white, instead they're changing because they want the respect and presumption of innocence that white people receive. (Needless to say, it's an unearned respect and incorrect pressumpiton!)

    I think this is an important distinction because it shows that these types of people would change accordingly if the current trend favored Arabs, Inuits, or East Africans. I think they're immature weaklings who don't deserve the amount of thought I'm using to post my thoughts.

  41. GailS,

    Same difference.

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    White supremacy is on top now, but yeah, it could be dominance of another group instead, and has been before.


    What you wrote is obvious. Of COURSE white skin has been favored in other contexts for other reasons.

    So, you're sure white supremacy is a factor, like, in some way or other, in some cases or other, but that's not what interests you? So like, why are you even here then, on a blog about stuff white people do? (I smell derailment.)

  42. I think it's the images we see growing up that we point to and think are the ideal and then decide to copy. Even in 2009 an african american girl is hard pressed to find many black women with dark brown skin and kinky hair on television or in the movies. So it doesn't matter how much we are told by our mothers we are beautiful the images that are being inforced are those of white people or black people who look white.

  43. AE,

    My statements aren't based on derailment, the motivations behind them are the same as the motivation that brings me to reading this blog; it presents another side of an issue that is often ignored by others.

    Now, while as an Asian man I love to blame white people for as many things as I can, as often as I can. But, I also have to admit when they aren't completely at fault for certain things; for to understand a problem one must see the whole picture else only further problems will arise.

  44. Wow that video is awful.

    I have less sympathy for the two models (Jet and the Indian man) because they basically make their living selling their physical features, but the mother who gets told she's too ugly for her lighter-skinned husband just made my heart break.

  45. It's so funny; even when my self-esteem was at its teenage-years lowest, I never wished for lighter skin. (I did long for "flowing" hair, though.) In fact, I distinctly remember being thunderstruck one day (around age 11 or 12 or so) at how pretty brown skin was, and how lucky I was to have it, and maybe even pitying my white friends a little bit. They just seemed so... well, blotchy. (Shades of Randy.)

    To this day, the thing I think makes for beautiful skin is evenness of tone. I don't care what the tone is. (Which means that to me, the Asian woman in the video has the most gorgeous skin imaginable. *wistful sigh*)

    The funny part is that when I get a cut, it heals light. So I'm getting blotchier as I age. Curses! When I realized this (late teens), I briefly considered using "fade cream" (Nadinola: it's Nature's best!), because what they usually stress/promise is even skin (not light skin). That's the "reason" many users give: "I just want to even it out." But I knew what was up. And I specifically wanted my lighter areas darkened, not my everything made lighter.

    Now that I'm older, I'm fine with it; that's just how it is. Though I have to admit that when I learned the other day that "Latisse" (which I think is ridiculous) permanently darkens skin, I thought, "Hey, I could use that! Why don't they market that aspect of it?!" Then I caught myself, and burst out laughing. As if!

  46. Micheal jackson had a whole host of issues beyond skin color, such as child abuse and exploitation over the course of his life.

    The man was psychologically unbalanced, its not just a matter of hating being black. So don't just black it on him being black.

  47. I guess the euro-centric standard of beauty have permeated the entire world so much that people are not comfortable in their own skin. I'm not saying that each society also doesn't have their own beauty standard but I won't be surprised if Sosa starts getting nose reductions either.

  48. This topic has always been a rather inflammatory one for me personally. I grew-up with a Chinese Father who had profound problems with internal racism. He didn't teach any of his children about his culture or background, not only b/c he wanted us to be 100% Americans, but also b/c he had a deep seeded belief that cultures around the world, including his, were inferior to European culture.

    My Mom looks exactly what many people around the world consider a "real American girl" - blonde, blue eyes and very pale. So, I grew-up with messages from within my family and from American culture at large via television and other media that Asian features and non-"White" features are less desirable.

    However, the particular part of the US I am from and where I currently live has a very healthy counter-culture. So, in my immediate environment, there are many billboards featuring women with non-"White" features, and non-"White" girls and women are frequently acknowledged as beautiful. In fact, I've noticed an upsurge in Native American women getting attention lately.

    This may indeed be a function of resource redistribution due to casinos and the like. Native Americans are increasingly entering the middle class in this area.

    Regarding speculation on how impending Chinese economic power will change beauty norms, I have already see this happening for a while. One of the most blatant manifestations of this occurred while I was in East Germany a couple of years ago. I was very surprised to see billboards and television commercials including and sometimes featuring Chinese models/actors. I thought this was very odd given that there were basically no Chinese living in this relatively small city.

    Concepts of beauty are so intertwined with social power dynamics. I think if people were more conscious of this, beauty myths would loose some of their power.

  49. >Concepts of beauty are so intertwined with social power dynamics. I think if people were more conscious of this, beauty myths would loose some of their power.

    Yeah. For example, I've always wondered what the deal was with Mona Lisa. I've never understood what's supposed to be so beautiful about her. So, when I think of how beauty is relative & changes with time, I'll remember Mona Lisa. I doubt she'd pass as 'hot' nowadays, but obviously someone back then thought she was hot enough to paint.

  50. Obviously white people are in-essence the superior race so it makes sense to want to strive to achieve it. As a black male I know that my life would be substantially easier in many regards.

  51. simply put this is envy................. full on.

    white envy. envy is wrong and evil.


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