Bad Vybz, slavery, bleaching - it's your body!


Friday, October 07, 2011

Print this page Email A Friend!

Some two centuries later, slavery is still the "whipping boy". Last year it was the reason our men did not support their kids, this year it is the reason we bleach, and next it might be the reason we do not work. Slavery has little to do with "browning" or colour prejudice. Under slavery our relations were clear. White people were free, black people were slaves - no ambivalence! Emancipation cancelled this equation. Freedom is complex, it means making decisions for yourself and this led to more division and derision. The fixed social space in slave society was easy. With big issues gone, small issues are now big blocks to unity. We now have to find fault with a nose, an attitude, a "cut eye"or a shade of difference!

Last month's unfounded report that a client of HEART/NTA asked for "brown-skinned trainees" was part idleness, part work of closet racists. In the past cosmetology and hair salons had some bias - long hair, smooth complexion, brown salon assistants reputedly got more clients as they knew the reality of mixed hair care and how to use the top products researched on white hair. Our laws do not support this, neither do most people - a non-issue!

Our men's fascination with long hair and brown skin also occurs in Africa. It's like white men's fascination with blonde hair and blue eyes. Both are unusual and exciting to men! A natural blonde (not from a bottle) and a black woman with unprocessed "straightish" hair is a bounty to each! like the white Rhino or Black Panther - a trophy!

I notice beauty contests are also criticised and there is a special venom racists reserve for black women. Yet beauty queens from Africa are women with European features in shades of brown with Beyoncé as a mid-point. Mother Africa shows us no beauties with nose, lips and derrières typical of the black "massive". Yet there are wealthy men and nations there.

Vybz Kartel

Adijah Palmer was ridiculed in an insensitive and tasteless cartoon by Clovis: a graphic bleached figure implying effeminate, gay rape in prison. All because of bleaching. If this had been a woman, human rights would have pounced on the issue. Sadly, male rape or rape in prison has little traction here. What's the problem with bleaching? Is it damaging to health as cigarettes, ganja, or liquor? How many are killed by men under the influence of bleaching? How many die of bleaching overdose? We spend millions each year to treat the effects of smoking and alcohol - emphysema, lung cancers, etc, rescuing families and DUI victims. Where is the media blitz to stop them? Cartoons ridiculing prominent smokers or alcoholics? We gorge on junk food, we inhale and ingest noxious substances - who cares? But bleaching gets us going. Why? The public health impact is not that of smoking and alcohol; "death by bleaching" is not here, yet it provokes venom that killer substances do not. Why?

Body enhancements

People have always tried to improve their bodies. For example:

o Offers of penis enhancement are always in my inbox. It clearly sells! Is this racist?

o A "boob job" is a popular female enhancement which many men applaud. Is it slavery?

o A young London actress died recently in surgery to improve the pout of her derrière. The "African personality" of Beyoncé or J Lo is inimitable but they still try. Is this slavery?

o Sunbeds make lots of money as white people try to get brown skin. Is this racist?

o Piercings are cultural in Africa and Asia but big fashion in Europe. Is this racist? Caused by slavery? Why is reaction to bleaching so visceral? Some racists want to curb freedom. Do they hassle people who suntan on Lime Cay? I don't think so!

Are browning and bleaching evidence of issues of self-image and self-esteem? Insecurity? Race hate? Anti-bleaching crusaders have no concern for health and safety; otherwise the cigarette and rum companies would be long closed. Is it slavery why we smoke and drink to excess?


The major bleachers were never slaves. India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia have tens of millions of black-skinned, straight-haired people with access to bleach salons and creams as many want lighter skin. This is a $b industry heavily advertised. In India, Indians are secure people; technology giants with an iconic history and bleaching meets some people's needs! Tanning some others - despite skin cancer! Why the venom? Do we hate ourselves? Our approach to bleaching is so punitive. Does appearance matter? Yes!

Looks are very important and research says good-looking people do better. Do we or African nations have a different notion of good looks to Europe? What are the features of black beauty? Eyes, nose, mouth, face? White or black people are not uniform. There are different skin shades, facial and body structures in each group. All Africans do not have dark skins and broad noses; all Arabs or Jews don't have big noses and hairy skin, nor all English straight hair and pointy noses. Beautiful people of whatever colour are exceptions and some fit the paradigm of "Miss World". The Asian, African or European winner have one thing in common - beauty! And so, despite "hot air" in Jamaica and Africa we have no contest for African beauty. Many African leaders have white wives or black ones with features like supermodel Naomi or Iman. These features are not European, these are features of beauty that exist in all shades. Let's shame both black and white racists! Our citizens bleach, drink rum, smoke, inject botox, diet, get nose jobs, breast implants, IVF; use Viagra, deodorant, breath sprays, chemicals for hair, nails, etc, to help their bodies as they see fit. The job of the state is to ensure access to safe products and providers; that consumers are told the risks and bear the costs and consequences by using private health care, not taxpayer-funded hospitals. I love my "out of many one" nation and my rainbow world. We should not criminalise people for choices which do not hurt others. Stay conscious, my friend!


Two weeks ago South Africa signed big money deals with new best friend China and did not give the Dalai Lama a visa to attend his friend Bishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday bash. Tutu is livid as the Dalai Lama supported them during apartheid. Shame on South Africa! New freedom, new friends, new money, same old divide and rule!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon