The Afro Hair and Beauty Show promotes European standards of beauty

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While people are lining up to lambast the LSE lecturer who stated that black women are rated the least attractive of all races, there is a peculiar silence about a  more  permanent  insult against black women.

For the third year running, an event that is supposed to celebrate black beauty had a large stand dedicated to selling skin bleaching creams. Brands available were Fair and White, Whiter than White and Sure White. (Even the Daily Mail, not known for its deep understanding of African culture, thinks skin bleaching is unacceptable, as conveyed in a 2007 article)

This is what is called the ‘Afro Hair and Beauty’ Show 2011. Complaints made about the show in 2009 are still pertinent:-

“I was just shocked! It was so blatant! At an event where you’re supposed to find out how to maintain or enhance your African beauty they are selling you products that make black skin white.

“I’m Asian and I have two daughters that are mixed African/Asian. I went there specifically to find out exactly how to care for my children’s hair. When I asked at various stalls I got no help whatsoever. To make it worse there’s this stall telling me to whiten my skin."

"I'd never been before and went there thinking I'd get something like Adornment. All I got was wigs, weaves and skin bleaching. It was trash. I was really annoyed. My skin is dark brown what message does that stall send to me?"

Occurring at a time when black females are under  attack from Psychology Today (LSE lecturer), Cadburys (comparing them to  chocolate bars) and Dove (use their soap and transform  brown skin to white skin); the Afro Hair and Beauty show should have been a refuge for African Caribbean women to shelter from an assault on blackness.

At an event where they should be surrounded with positive messages of black beauty, instead, the message is… ‘Women with dark brown skin need to lighten it, and by the way give us £12.00 (entry fee) for the privilege of insulting you.’

Colourism exists within black and Asian communities and it can cause dark-skinned women to have low self-esteem and devalue themselves.  One would have hoped that the backers of a black beauty show would invest in stalls and adverts that reaffirmed black women’s features and made them feel confident about the way they look.

Disappointingly there is a psychological assault on the very essence of their appearance -their skin colour. They are told that whatever shade of brown they are they should lighten their skin to become ‘beautiful’. In the 21st century where do these ideals that fair skin is more attractive come from? How did they become part of the culture?  Perhaps this paragraph about Captain John Newton’s activities in the 1750’s will assist:

“Apart from normal young male libido at work, crews were actively encouraged by the owners and captains to have sexual relations with the female slaves. The reason was simply the profit motive.

Pregnant slaves would fetch a higher price at auction: two for the price of one. Particularly this was so if it were obvious that the child had been conceived at sea, since a mulatto baby would fetch a higher price than a darker skinned one. Lighter skinned slaves were prized as house servants, which fetched higher prices than field hands.”  (From the Newton and Cowper museum website)

The concept that whiter skin was better than dark skin was raped, beaten and tortured into African people’s consciousness as a direct result of slavery and colonialism. African women were told they were dark and repulsive by the same white men who were busy raping them. It is therefore somewhat disturbing that the same messages are being communicated to a paying audience of African Caribbean women.

Incidentally, ‘Captain Newton’ mentioned above who raped female slaves is the same ‘John Newton’ who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He became a preacher after a stroke prevented him from continuing his career as a slave trader.

In 2011 there are primary schools where black children, when asked to draw self-portraits colour themselves pink and give themselves long straight hair. The more skin bleaching is promoted, the more these ideas of inferiority permeate the community. People are then more likely to purchase bleaching creams to cope with the inferiority complex which of course delivers huge profits to the suppliers.

As Professor Cornel West stated in Race Matters

“A White supremacist ideology is based first and foremost on the degradation of black bodies in order to control them. One of the best ways to instil fear in people is to terrorize them. Yet this fear is best sustained by convincing them that their bodies are ugly, their intellect is inherently underdeveloped, their culture is less civilized, and their future warrants less concern than that of other peoples.”

The Afro Hair and Beauty show was established by Dyke and Dryden with Tony Wade in 1982. Dyke and Dryden was the most successful black business at the time. They had a strong Garveyite business ethic. After seeking a buyer from the black community with no success the company was sold to Soft Sheen in 1997 and is now owned by L'Oreal. Dark and Lovely is a brand of L'Oreal. It is surely ironic that Dark and Lovely promotes skin whitening cream.

At a black women’s hair, skin and beauty workshop run by Black History Walks in 2005, Ken Barnes, a motivational speaker and coach made the following statement:

“The fact is this, irrespective of the perception other people have of you, you as an individual control the perception you have of yourself. Unless you give others the power, they cannot make you feel bad.”

Tony Warner

About Tony Warner

Tony Warner runs events on the black history of London with guided walks, talks and films detailing the African presence in London. He also works in schools and colleges to improve academic performance and behaviour using history, and has featured in BBC, Teachers TV and Radio 4 documentaries.

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4 Comments On “The Afro Hair and Beauty Show promotes European standards of beauty”

  1. This is fantastic article I put a link to it on my facebook group page. I have just been discussing the same event on my blog http://www.thenaturallounge.com Skin Bleaching Creams do not have a place in our beauty events.

  2. WOW! Brilliant article and soo necessary, I found it via The Natural Lounge on Facebook, and I’ll definitely be spreading the link too. Its so necessary to have knowledge shared!
    Its especially sad having now read about the events origins, to now see it promoting skin bleaching.
    Crystal x

  3. Dove? really?

  4. Very interesting article. An issue I have with adverts is the likes of Beyonce et al advertising hair dye and shampoo when she wears weaves and lace front wigs! So how does that represent the average black woman with her OWN hair…perhaps these ads, like most products aren’t really aimed at black woman at all…21st century and we are still invisible?

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