The Blacker The Berry by Mimy Huney

Recently I had the chance to experience what was to be my first ‘skin colour’ slur. Having had to exchange emails with a certain guy from Bulawayo for quite sometimes we had become acquainted enough to share our day to day captivating moments through pictures. Being the gentleman he was, he was the first to snap his moments captured at a cricket event. I followed suit capturing my moment in my mother’s kitchen readying myself to make lunch. As I awaited for his juicy reply, I was met with a rather,taintful undesirable email. The gentleman, not so gentle after all had replied…

 

     LOL…..Ohhh always thought you were a yellowbone.BUMMER!

At that moment I don’t know what astounded me the most, his mocking of my ‘thirty minute to prepare selfie,’his many O’s that exceeded the normal lol, or rather his distaste for what seemed to be the skin colour he would have much loved to  associate with. Since that day, we haven’t chatted much but I learnt a lot from him. He presented to me the issue of being light skinned or rather the need to be light skinned as a woman in a new societal era. Believe you me, I do not have fault with already born light skinned people but I raise eyebrows on the way the average dark skinned women have become slaves to skin lightening creams all in the name of beauty and elegance.  The image of black women has been exploited for centuries in the Americas and Western Africa but never had it been grossly perforated in Zimbabwe until this decade. Home grown vendors and informal beauticians not forgetting the media have jumped on the skin lightening train without any consideration. The times have changed drastically. I grew up in an era where everyone black was BLACK but the trending nature of skin lightening loosely translated in ghetto lingo as ‘kubleacher’ has left the ordinary woman scathing off to join the wagon of what is termed ‘ma yellow bone’. If you take a stride further, It’s not hard to notice that we have simply associated beauty with whiteness, being white…Eurocentric, lacking African distinction. Well why else could bleaching creams overcrowd the city centre and the rest of downtown at even the lowest price of just a dollar so openly to young women and girls to vulture on. Interestingly you don’t have to be born light skinned in order to enjoy the benefits that other light skinned women are enjoying; you simply have to purchase yourself beauty creams or take pills that will transform you into a mediocre ghostly bleached Michael Jackson overnight. It’s shocking how we have quickly engrossed the ‘yellow bone’ era in our societies. For some of us who have always  reacted to anything that is not Vaseline in nature, Instagram filters have done much for us to flourish on social networks as almost ‘yellow bone’ .Various hip hop artists have also made it clear that ‘yellow bones’ are trending. I remember hearing one rap track that did much to seclude us dark skinned girls. The rap line went as follows…

 

‘TAKAPENGA…tongotamba nema yellowbone..’

I don’t blame the artist though. He was simply enacting what the western media had already presented to him as normal. Western media are usually vast on using light skinned women for their music videos and even South African and Nigerian artists have joined in on the rope. As engrossing as it is beauty has gone beyond being dark. Beauty according to society now is ‘light unblemished skin, beauty is almost being white.Beauty is not dark skinned..beauty is not ‘stained’. Women have embraced beauty as having a distinct ‘unstained’ yellow colour…’ma yellow bone’. Advertising does not present reality as it is but as it should be. For this reason, advertising is a good site to observe dominant physical characteristics. Nearly almost always African adverts tend to feature women with a lighter skin tone and a slender physique, denouncing the actual depiction of an African woman being plump and dark skinned.

In an unplanned study taken in a beauty salon in city centre Harare (you know how women are open bibles in salons) the skin lightening debate found its way in the room. One of the hairdresser’s was urging the other customers to purchase a Movet skin lightening package. A lady at the back quickly approved of her product and had expressed how Zimbabwean men nowadays preferred yellow soft skinned ladies to any other kind. For this reason she had eluded that skin lightening for those dark skinned was of utmost importance in attracting male companions. I remember a heavily pregnant woman also followed suit explaining how she had decided to enhance her skin tone to prevent her husband from being attracted to much younger looking girls. The phenomenon of skin lightening draws back all to trying as best as we can as women to seek the desire of the males.

Speaking from a sociological perspective, the contemporary society we live in does much discrimination than emancipation for women. People’s judgement about others have literally been coloured by skin tone. Dark skinned people are sociological associated with poverty, witchcraft and, deviant behaviour making it psychologically a skin tone with so much underrating. We have all shared the jeer in salons,mu combi or even in bottle stores of how light skinned women seem to peform way better in bed, how they have a better diva approach to life’ndivo vakadzi manje’ like my local hwindi would put it. From a gender centred point of view the relation between skin tone ,beauty and moral judgement affect women more than men. Women, more than men are judged heavily by the basis of their physical appearance. No wonder why we are quick to alter ourselves, slaving off to the wants and pleasures of our male counterparts.

According to the Media Control Authority of Zimbabwe,,the skin lightening industry although banned continues to operate and more than fifty thousand products are smuggled into the country from Zambia,Angola,Nigeria and further away from India. Whether it remains a case of debate or just a wondering thought pabridge remuraini,skin lightening creams possess a high risk on health which include skin disfigurement, skin cancers and botched skin defects. The skin lightening issue will not end and from the looks of things it is here to stay. It is not like they do not hold any knowledge of the position they decide to take. At the end of the day, every human being is different in their own way and thinking.My finding beauty in being dark skinned and not orange may be abhorrent to some. Like Winky sang back in 2010 ‘gudhu yangu haisi gudhu yako’ therefore I can not merely judge those who find fault in being dark skinned and seek means to enhance their skin tone to a lighter shade. We might not save this generation but we can educate and emancipate the next generation of young women and girls from Eurocentric vampires, out to alter their fresh African beauty and the media delusions portraying light skinned women as far much better beauties than dark skinned women. It is high time as women we find confidence in the way the Creator made us to be, dark or light. Africa must wake up its women before we become followers of every Western trend that is thrown to us..before we become controlled robots, before we lose our African worth.It is high time we stand and maintain our beauty the way God made it and not seek to alter it to seek love from men. Wasn’t it always said that the blacker the berry, the juicier it was supposed to be? Or maybe I’m just a frustrated dark skinned girl venting all her black juice to stain the ‘bleached’ just maybe….

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