Self hate is real.
Cameroonian singer, Dencia, is standing by her terrible skin whitening product called “Whitenicious.”
A while ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, and I came across a photo. In it, a young woman was with her friends. She was dark skin; her creamy complexion was rich in its pigmentation. However, her gorgeous skin was overshadowed by a cascade of platinum blond weave, bubblegum pink lipstick, and a revealing outfit.
I felt bad for her. Why? Because it was clear that she was uncomfortable with her genetics.
Self hate is not simple. Some believe that when a Black women goes blonde, she’s trying to embrace whiteness. I don’t think that’s true. Black hair is versatile, and we are able to don a number of styles that appeal to our features. But, when a Black woman decides to embrace blonde identity, or when she says that blonde hair is “better” than her natural brunette curls, then self-hate is evident.
Furthermore, blonde hair just isn’t suitable for all Black women. It doesn’t look right. An ombre or honey blonde is passable for darker skinned women, but blinding blonde just doesn’t work. When I see a dark skinned woman trying to rock a platinum blonde style when her edges say otherwise, I cry a little inside. Just like the girl I saw on Instagram, who had a pale blonde weave down to her waist.
Same goes for permed girls. I don’t believe that permed hair, in of itself, is a true indicator of whether or not a Black woman is comfortable with herself. But when it’s clear that a permed girl believes her permed hair is more aesthetically pleasing than her natural strands, then there’s an issue. A self-hate issue.
Hair aside, skin bleaching is an unarguable indicator of self-hate. If a dark skinned women is willing to go to such lengths to actually lighten their skin with harmful products, then it’s clear that she is suffering from self hate.
As a dark skinned woman, I can speak to the social pressure that dark skin invites. Feeling unwanted or unattractive is a heavy burden to carry. Lacking self esteem, for years I hated the complexion I was blessed with. In my younger years, I frequently questioned my beauty, and tried too hard to reconcile my looks. I wished for light skin, oftentimes daydreaming about how different my life would be if my skin was just a bit lighter.
I went to a predominately Hispanic middle school, and I remember wishing I could be Puerto Rican. All of the Spanish girls had boyfriends and were popular. I wasn’t. I never hated being Black, but I did hate that I was so far away from whiteness. And this hate blighted my self esteem and common sense. The hate encroached upon my sense of self.
But, one day, I was tired of feeling heavy. I knew that my look wasn’t attractive to everyone… but everyone else didn’t matter so long as I loved myself. So I decided to love myself.
It wasn’t an easy journey, and there were a number of days when the doubt came back. But ultimately, the solace I have now, and the confidence with which I go about my life, is completely worth it. I love myself, and I am almost embarrassed that I ever challenged my beauty under the specter of superficial standards that have been perpetuated by a prejudicial society built on racism.
In the case of Dencia and the millions of other women who are not pleased with their skin, self-hate is inarguable.
In Asia, self-hate is particularly damning, with skin lightening products selling by the billions. There are a number of independent blogs with tips for “safe” skin lightening regimens. And, of course, the media continues to celebrate figures who closely identify as white or light skin.
It’s ridiculous that in the 21st century, these attitudes, habits, and ideologies still prevail. When I gained my sense of self, I wasn’t alone. I found a strong community of Black, Brown, and Yellow women who no longer tried to attain the unattainable; and instead embraced and promoted their brand of beauty.
This community is the one I involve myself in. And I only feel sorrow for Dencia and the millions of other women who are ready and willing to go to such damaging lengths.