In Caribbean Culture news.
When children were born to enslaved women and slave masters, some were put to work in the homes of their fathers. This was the beginning of the shadism ladder in the Caribbean. Although the work was less strenuous, it was fraught with many dangers because women and children were more vulnerable to rape. Because Europeans preferred lighter skinned slaves to darker ones, both groups soon began to associate complexion with privilege.
The shadism ladder dictated that those of European appearance were at the top of the scale and the further removed from European ancestry a person was the further down the social scale that individual was placed. Thus, it developed within the psyche of some women that it was more advantageous to have children with white or light-skinned men.
Children of such unions wanted to keep the socio-economic privileges they received within their own groups and would not marry dark skinned people whom they considered inferior. Based on those social ideologies, many married only within their own groups or intermarried with blood relatives.
If a marriage with someone darker did happen, it was usually because that individual had acquired a measure of economic stability and could improve their spouse’s social standing within the mixed race community.
Such unions also had social benefits for the darker skinned individual because they had married up on the shadism ladder.
Within families where one child was lighter than the other, usually the lighter skinned one was held in higher esteem than the darker one, thus creating sibling rivalry based on complexion. That subliminal racist ideology created fissures of thinking within families, which they transmitted from generation to generation.
The ideology that Europeans are genetically superior to all other races and that Africans are genetically inferior to all other races has permeated into the psyche of many people’s minds and fragmented into self hatred and other negative patterns of behaviour.
Because of negative experiences regarding dark skin within their communities, some believe that by lightening their skin they would be more acceptable to others, get better jobs, and have better self-esteem and better relationships. Skin beaching is a reaction to internalised self-hatred, a low self-esteem, and communities that are still enslaved mentally with the viewpoint that lighter skin is more attractive than darker skin, and because they have been conditioned to think that way, they place a higher social and economic value on those concepts of beauty.
However, the reality is that the more deluded an individual’s thought processes are as regards to their cultural identity, the more they can be controlled to act in certain ways, and the sicker they are, the more they can be exploited to spend money to rectify the “problem.” In Ancient Egyptian pictures, the women are often depicted with braided hair or wearing wigs, which has always been an aspect of African aesthetics.
Both were ways of protecting the hair that is more delicate than European hair and which needs a higher maintenance programme. However, the concepts of wearing wigs have changed over time. Based on the ideology of the “good hair, bad hair syndrome” that came about when mixed race children were born. Hair took on a value system and became “good” if the person’s hair was mixed with European or Asian ancestry or “bad” if it was natural and not mixed with other nationalities.
Now, wigs have become more of a cover-up to hide natural hair and to appear more acceptable to fit into a European concept of beauty. Another derogatory term for hair that has not been damaged by chemical alteration is “nappy head” which is an insult because it is always used as a standard that needs to be changed. Once again, European textured hair is at the top of the hierarchical ladder as the epitome of beauty and the only standard worth attaining.
See Part II
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About the Author (Author Profile)
Hi I’m Guyanese born, Scherin Barlow Massay who studied at Goldsmiths’ College University of London. I’m a researcher, short story writer, visual artist and my poetry has been anthologised. My favourite topic of research is the African Diaspora. I hope you enjoy my articles and invite you to comment from time to time…