Colorism: ‘Lighter Than’ Or ‘Darker Than’?


Colorism is a world-wide complex issue and if I may, a mental problem. This is when there’s a divide between people of same racial populace based on their skin tones. Colorism is a discriminatory concept that gives social meanings to skin color. It is believed that people with the lighter complexion are held in higher regards and have better opportunities than their darker counterparts. Colorism is indeed a very serious mental problem that has hurt and confused people’s self-esteem and perception of themselves, respectively. When someone walks past you, it’s only logical that you notice some details about them; and since the skin is the outermost part of the body, that’s the first point of observation. It’s natural. But the problem begins when you begin to attribute the success and progress of this person to the tone of his/her skin. It appears that even as people of the same race, some have the notion that a particular tone of African skin have it easier than the darker ones. Obviously, the definition by the oppressors still lingers on. It is still assumed that anything closer to white is definitely better of. Well it is good to mention that preference does not mean privilege neither does it mean perfection.


Fake became the new real when we failed to accept ourselves just the way we are. If we understand that we all can’t be yellow- brown, or dark chocolate-brown, or paper bag brown, we won’t bother about wasting a dime on whiteners. The psychology behind this is that everything or anything closer to white is definitely better than any other skin color. And you wonder why people are bleaching? sorry, I meant toning, that’s one of the new words for bleaching. No matter how clever the marketing word-engineers get, bleaching is same old bleaching and now has twice the potential of messing up your skin and your health in general. They all do a great job in reducing the melanin content of your skin, which makes the skin vulnerable to cancer and other skin complications. You know what they say about best things in life coming free, unfortunately we do not value them. With the health benefits of the black skin,  we still go on to damage it because somewhere in our heads ‘lighter than’ is better than ‘darker than’. If you’ve compared a well Photoshop picture of you with your natural self, you’ll appreciate more the ‘lighter than’ mentality of the people in general. They say lighter people get all the attention and regard in a way that makes people believe erroneously that they too have to step up. First it was called what it was, bleaching, later the term changed to toning, fading and later, we have lightening and whitening. Most celebrated beauty routines of our time does nothing but play a fast one on the psyche and damage our health- skin and blood cancers, burns, thinning of the skin, skin damage/infections, stretch marks  and ochronosis (very hard to treat). Every bad habit has a way of giving you a bad health.


The media has inexplicable power over people and their choice of lifestyles. It’s crazy but true. A lot of people wear what they wear today because the media projected and promoted it. Even if you’ve never been to a certain country, once you’ve seen a movie on it, you can say at least one or two correct things about the place. That’s what the media does, it transfers, exports and imports culture from all over the place. It’s ridiculous when a TV presenter tells her story saying, she has been denied roles in the movie industry because according to the judges, she was not “yellow enough’, not for that particular role but for the supposed packaging of a media person. It’s sick, Africans discriminating fellow Africans because of their skin tone. Most African actresses have all lightened up for the camera. Before, cosmetics was made for the skin, now, the reverse is the case, the skin is now made for cosmetics. The truth is that the end product seriously doesn’t look good, I mean, the look is pale and discolored as though they were sick with something. In the past we could call it ignorance but in the present time, with all the information on everyone’s finger tips, this is happening, and deliberately at that. The practice of discriminating against the darker tone and the consequent skin bleaching is doing more harm than good to the health, so why do it in the first place? Involved ladies will probably be addicted to being caked up in make up, that’s the only way they look somewhat normal. Things have gone so wrong that acne treatments have also become the most common bleaching products in Nigeria. The African media which should be enlightening people, now consciously promotes what is clearly detrimental to the lives and self- esteem of Africans. When you constantly  saturate your movies with very light-skinned people, you are making a statement. More so is the sheepish projection and promotion of any foreign concept without due consideration. People today live by the dictates and implied living standards presented by the media.

lightening injection 1

CNN reports that Nigeria has the highest number of bleaching cream consumers in the world, predominantly among youths 18 – 40 years old. The skin bleaching business which takes advantage of the people’s insecurities about their skin, has become a multi billion dollar industry around the world. If colourism did not exist, or rather if people didn’t buy into it, then the skin lightening venture would have been a failed course. Whitening has become a global syndrome, from America, to Europe, to Asia, to Africa. These products-creams, pills and injections- contain dangerous acids and chemicals such as alpha hydroquinone, steroids and mercury.

Colourism is peculiar to both  men and women alike, who would have thought men had the complex too.  You damn all health implications because your core concern is what you think people see when they look at you. It appears we are still chasing after the shadow of the white man and indirectly making it a  fixed social construct that being lighter skinned is the way to be. Colorism is emphatically a mental problem and virus that is successfully ravaging the African community. Celebrities are not helping matters, most of them have stepped up into the ‘whitening’ realm. What then are you proud of when you say ‘proudly African’?

bleaching man

Here’s the fact, no matter what your perception and conclusion about the better of being ‘lighter’ or ‘darker than’, things are just the way they are. If you are black, then you will remain black till your time is up. No amount of skin lightening will change those genes, the best it can do is depreciate your skin quality and cause unnecessary stare when you are outside or at table with extended family members. With no disrespect, I could count how many white people attended Micheal Jackson’s memorial. Secondly, by the virtue of your latest lightened outer appearance, you always appear confused, replete with a low-self esteem and in truth not exactly identifiable by any race. I hear Chinese women walk around with umbrellas because they don’t want to get dark. So when you lighten up your dark skin, you are obviously asserting a notion that disrespects your race. Skin lightening does not make you more beautiful, it makes a mess of an already beautiful skin. In other words, white skin does not and can never equate to beauty.