Blacks, Bleaching and the Willie Lynch Letter – By Yvonne Sam

Blacks, Bleaching and the Willie Lynch Letter

Yvonne Sam

Black is Beautiful but Bleaching does not guarantee Reaching.

On April 11, 2017 detectives assigned to the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Branch (C-TOC) in Jamaica, seized 78,000 tubes/jars of assorted bleaching creams, and in relation to the find charged the vendor with Breaches of the Pharmacy Act, Food and Drug Act and Customs Act. Skin lightening trends or skin bleaching has continued to be practiced in Jamaica despite governmental crack-down measures.

Individuals especially females with lighter skin are thought to be favoured by the elite, leaving many to seek lightening treatments when looking for employment.  It is also associated with privilege.   

The term Snow White Complex refers to the privilege and advantage people gain with lighter or whiter skin.  The media has also been found guilty of worsening the problem, as the country is awash with images of fair-skinned people featured in commercials and media, thereby influencing the natives to desire lighter skin.

Casting aside all semantics Jamaica is not the only country currently plagued by the bleaching or whitening itch, as similar situations play out daily before our very eyes right here in North America. The largest and most damaging racism occurs amongst ourselves, although we don’t address it, but we know it’s always there. , as we continue to define each other or cast negative and denigratory remarks based on skin color, such as —jet black, shades of midnight, fair skinned, high colored, dirty red. etc.  On repeated occasions we are reminded either directly or by subtle means that light is right. Family members have also been known to remind other family members that lighter girls are prettier than darker ones. In the past and even today it appears that these appallingly egregious opinions are still the norm, where some mothers still tell their sons to marry only light skinned women, so as not to have dark babies.

It is apparent that Blacks have always had a problem with appearance, not being comfortable in their own skin. However, I was of the opinion, and maybe wrongfully so that the subject of color complexion had subsided and was no longer a hot issue. However, to learn of its continued existence within the Black community makes me sad and disheartened. Naiveté disregarded.  I fully understand that there was a historical period throughout the diaspora, which necessitated

reversion to slogans attesting that Black is beautiful, in order to boost Black people’s sense of identity and self-worth. This is 2017 and by now Blacks should have moved way beyond that. Will Black people need self-affirming slogans forever?

The very act of bleaching or colourism has its roots in colonialism —separating people of colour into various classes based on their complexions.  What skin bleachers are doing is making a desperate attempt to become upwardly mobile into certain social structures, which is akin to individuals in America who wear blonde wigs and contact lenses to fit Eurocentric standards of beauty. Incidentally skin bleaching products have been banned in the U.K

We must first admit that there is an epidemic of color prejudice within our society. As I read about the bleachings and the attitudes and prejudices involving skin color, the infamous letter of Willie Lynch, the British slave owner came to mind. In 1712, he delivered a speech that was different from many others wherein he outlined the teaching of methods that would keep slaves under control. Among the methods mentioned in The Willie Lynch Letter were instructions for pitting the darker skin black against the lighter one. Lynch states within the letter that blacks will continue to perpetrate these actions, by self-refueling and self-generating this thought of self-hatred for hundreds of years.

Below are edited excerpts from the letter that are connected to my opinion on bleaching and the experiences and attitudes of the Black race.  I also strongly urge a reading of the letter in its entirety.

I have a full proof method for controlling our black slaves. I guarantee every one of you that, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 hundred years. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves.

The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.

You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves.

Some have claimed that the Willie Lynch Letter is a mere hoax. However, for my part whether or not it is a hoax, pales in revelation of the fact that not only does it seem to have worked, but there is also evidence of a connection between the letter and attitudes on being a dark skinned woman or man. The letter may be three centuries old, but still holds ramifications that affect blacks to this day. Sadly we are still doing just those things of which he spoke.

The practice of trying to change the skin color must stop, and Blacks must understand that they will never reach no matter how much they bleach.  Let us learnt to embrace our sisters and accept all the shades within our special ethnic pigmentary rainbow, and while we are doing so, let us conquer the self-hatred and the Willie Lynch mentality. 

Yvonne Sam.

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  • demerwater  On 04/28/2017 at 5:16 am

    I am not sure that it was always so. There was an old calypso entitled “Glamour Gal”. It had the right blend of the “topical and philosophical” in a commentary about women’s hairstyles (poke-an’-roll, victory) make-up etc. He referred to the ‘beauty mole’; and sang …
    “An’ on dem black people, it don’ show;
    Dey put on peaching cream, as you know”.
    The flip side of that 78 rpm record was “Don’t you fence her in”; and might have been the first recordings by a Barbadian calypsonian.
    Pardon my light-heartedness on a very current and profound synapse in our self-image.

  • Albert  On 04/28/2017 at 12:43 pm

    Yvonne this is one time I entirely agree with you. I have seen it to a greater extent in Barbados and Jamaica.
    Older Guyanese have been condition by the movies and magazines to into believing there is a superiority and inherent beauty in the white skin women. In the old days the beauties on the screen were women like Yvonne Decarlo, Jane Russel, Elizabeth Taylor etc. Seeing Dorothy Dandridge, a black beauty, was a shock. Now our black sisters have to use all kinds of beauty devices to keep up and compete for black men. Serena has money and sex appeal yet she could not find one. My take.
    It has become more than that however. For advertising and commercial purposes the light brown person appeal to a wider audience and thus to employers. The females are even more desirable to our black money making sport stars.

    • Micky  On 04/28/2017 at 4:04 pm

      It is quite apparent in bollywood movies that fair skinned people are preferred especially the heroine or.main star is white skinned.

      For some reason dark skinned people are not favoured for main parts.

      There are products like fair and lovely that is advertised to give fairer complexion

      • Mango chutney  On 04/29/2017 at 8:22 am

        Because ignorant people see dark skinned people as ugly and lowly . I am saying this because will think it but don’t say it. Plenty racism in all cultures against each other.

  • Randy De Freitas  On 05/02/2017 at 6:55 am

    Excellent article.

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