In the first place, it’s psychological, involving the adoption of alien ideals and the rejection of native characteristics.
African-American psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a famous “doll study” in the 1940s that showed how black children as young as three come to understand their place in the world as “less than”.
They reach this conclusion long before they have the ability to articulate race.
It’s a phenomenon black psychologists refer to as a “colour complex”.
This idea that dark skin is “less than” gets reinforced daily on television, in advertisements and through other forms of mass media.
The bleaching syndrome is also sociological.
This means that it affects group behaviour in line with these ideals.
The fact that black rappers systematically select light-skinned women to model in their videos is a good popular example of this.
The final aspect of the bleaching syndrome is physiological.
Here, individual psychology and group behaviour eventually lead to the alteration of skin colour.
Throughout the African continent there have been attempts to discontinue the use of skin bleaches.
These products are banned in The Gambia, Uganda, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
Nigeria has not banned bleaching per say but has banned the toxic additives like mercury contained in bleaching creams.
While experts in Senegal have called on the government to take similar steps.
Bleaching soaps and creams have also been banned in the European Union, Australia and Japan.
Despite these efforts it does not appear that the popularity of the practice has slowed significantly.
In countries such as Nigeria and Togo over 50% of the women bleach.
The fact is that the continued demand for bleaching creams means that they will continue to be manufactured and sold on the market, even if they are illegal.
The bleaching syndrome persists because light skin remains the ideal and the sale of bleaching creams remain profitable.
The “natural hair movement” offers a good example of how we may be able to combat the bleaching syndrome.
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