The-Latest SPECIAL REPORT - Deborah Hobson
"If you’re Black stay back, if you’re brown hang around and if you’re white you’re alright”. Thus went an ugly, rhyming catchphrase of African and Caribbean colonial times. Its message under-scored the divisive racial hierarchy which was common place and lived on even after independence in the late 1950s and 1960s. ‘Black’ referred to dark-skinned people and ‘brown’ to their mixed-heritage kin with a fairer complexion. Even today, the rhyme evokes bitter memories for those who experienced the social stigma of being ‘dark’. They painfully recall how, in school they were told to sit at the back of the class and as adults they were denied access to better-paid jobs, in banks, retail and government. In urban Britain, some backward youth use 'blick' as a derogatory term to refer to a dark-skinned Black person.
In 1991, controversial Jamaican ‘ragga' artist Buju Banton, later infamous for his homophobic lyrics, reignited the old melanin tension between African-Caribbeans. His international hit single “Love Me Browning” celebrated his preference for light-skinned women. The song,with its infectious beat and uncompromising lyrics, propelled Banton to the status of “king of the dancehall” music scene and at the same time focused attention on the secret use of potentially lethal skin bleaching products by many Black women in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the UK as a crude means of improving their social acceptance.
Creams containing four per cent hydroquinone, a harsh bleaching agent and the steroid cortisone, were used by those trying to achieve the ‘browning’ look. Widely condemned by the medical profession, the ‘beauty’ preparations caused severe and sometimes irreversible skin mutations, hyper-pigmentation, Cushings syndrome - which shows itself as a large growth at the back of the neck - and ultimately skin cancer.