Skin Bleaching in Jamaica: A Colonial Legacy
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Light skin color sits within a space of privilege. While this has global significance and relevance, it is particularly true in Jamaica, a former British colony. The majority of the population is of African descent, yet there is an elevation of Eurocentric values and a denigration of Afrocentric values in many facets of life, specifically in the promotion of light skin as an indicator of beauty and social status. The purpose of this study was to examine the psychological and socio-cultural factors that influence the practice of skin bleaching in the postcolonial society of Jamaica. Additionally, the study outlined the nation's efforts to combat the skin-bleaching phenomenon. The naturalistic paradigm of inquiry was used to frame the study and to collect and analyze data. The sample consisted of fifteen participants—twelve participants (six males and six females) with a history of skin bleaching; a retailer of skin lightening products; a local dermatologist who has written and published in local newspapers on the practice; and a representative from the Ministry of Health who was integrally involved in the national educational efforts to ban the practice. Data came from three sources: in-depth interviews with respondents; observation of participant's skin-bleaching practices; and a review of local cultural artifacts from popular culture and the media. Data from the audio recorded and transcribed interviews were analyzed using a thematic analysis. Some of the findings reveal that there are multiple and inconsistent definitions of bleaching; skin bleaching enjoys mixed reviews—much attributed to economic and social class distinctions; bleachers demonstrate and boast of their expertise in managing the bleaching process suggesting, that because of this expertise, they are immune to any negative side-effects of the practice; the bleaching practice was found to be intermittent, time consuming and laborious, costly and addictive; there are several motivations for the skin-bleaching practice, and these are primarily connected to issues of fashion, beauty, popularity, self-image and acceptability; there is a certain level of defiance towards the government‘s efforts to ban bleaching yet an expressed sense of responsibility among bleachers. The overall findings show that there is a bias in Jamaica for light skin over dark skin and these values are taught in non-formal and informal ways from very early in life. The practice of skin bleaching is of social and public health concern, and this study has implications for national policy, practice and theory.
Social Cognitive Theory
Robinson, Petra Alaine (2011). Skin Bleaching in Jamaica: A Colonial Legacy. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from