Thursday, January 30, 2014

The "other white people" in South Africa and Nigeria

People in many parts of the world like to look lighter


Dear Editor,
One gets the impression that Frederick Kissoon is bored, has run out of things to say, wants continuous attention, is cheating journalistically, or getting old and rusty – or all of the above!  His KN 10-13-13 column, “Sex and skin colour: India confronts its white-skin obsession” is a case in point.
Mr. Kissoon browses the internet and looks for topics that put India and Indians in bad light, and brings these to the fore in the Guyana newspapers to create a furor and irk the sensitivities of Indians.  The only problem about that is that poor Mr. Kissoon moves too slowly for comfort.
The hue and sex colour is not a recent phenomenon; the debate has been raging for years in India.  And Mr. Kissoon should know that the biggest criticisms of the outrageous practices in India come from Indians themselves – through various forms in the media.  So when Mr. Kissoon claims that the thing (Indian’s obsession with white skin) “is now wide open, thanks to Al Jazeera”, it evokes another chuckle from this journalist researcher.
I quote verbatim from my KN letter of 11-02-13, “Freddie’s sensationalist column was typically partial and unbalanced”.
In that letter, I stated, “Mr. Kissoon is angry that almost all of the ads have light skinned persons, and has repeatedly expressed his disgust that Indians in India have been partial to those with lighter complexion in the Bollywood arena. (I share this sense of disgust, as it is true not only to actors, for also those in certain employment, for those looking for a spouse, etc.). But does he know that Africans, from Jamaica to South Africa, use lightening creams to look lighter and non-black?
A University of Cape Town study showed that one in three women in South Africa try hard to whiten their skin to look white, including local musician Nomasonto ‘Mshoza’ Mnisi,  who is now several shades lighter.  The situation in Nigeria is worse, where approximately 77% of the women use skin lighteners.  And many African women in the continent and in the Diaspora, including Guyana, have used hair straighteners, thereby departing from the traditional appearance.
In Jamaica, the most public proponent of bleaching is singing star Vybz Kartel , whose own complexion has dramatically lightened in recent years. His ‘Look Pon Me’ contains the lines: “Di girl dem love off mi brown cute face, di girl dem love off mi bleach-out face.”  And residents of Denham Town, in west Kingston, say the introduction of a ‘new type’ of skin lightening cream has sparked fist fights and a rift among women in a section of their community. The women are reportedly accusing each other of spitefully purchasing too much of the commodity to get the other jealous.
On 13-01-13, the Stabroek News carried an article, “Fly Jamaica inaugural flight delayed”, and showed a photo of the attendant crew.  There were eight women shown in the photo; except for one, all of them were light skinned, most with dyed hair! The bottom line is people in many parts of the world like to look lighter, and advertisers hone in on that axiom.
It is obvious that Mr. Kissoon browses the internet in search of material to insert in his daily column.  There is nothing original about this cheap form of journalism. (If Mr. Kissoon wants some really juicy journalistic stuff, all he has to do is to check out the Indian media websites!).
It is baffling why Mr. Kissoon would mention the Al Jazeera news item on the obsession of white skin colour of Indians, and ignore this dark side (pardon the pun) of the Africans.  In a prominent article by that media house a few months ago (, Al Jazeera stated that almost 8 out of 10 women are involved in “bleaching” – a term used for whitening one’s skin – to look and feel more beautiful – far more than the Indians!
Mr. Kissoon laments that the BBC has not carried the issue of India’s obsession with being “fair”.  They did – on June 5, 2012, when Rajini Vaidyanathan wrote, “Has skin whitening in India gone too far?”
Try again, Fred.
Devanand Bhagwan

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