Way back in the mid-to-late ’80s when I was just a young boy, I remember going to my uncle’s home and looking through his record collection (which I did everywhere I went for some reason) and coming across an album cover that confused my young mind. It was Yellowman‘s “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng,” which featured the albino reggae DJ standing tall amongst a group of beautifully brown children in their school uniforms. At that young age, my parents had never explained albinism to me, so my young mind couldn’t truly process what I was seeing. Yellowman’s features were very similar to any Black man I’ve ever seen, but his skin and hair color were completely different. Eventually, my parents explained everything to me.
About a month later, I was walking with my mother in the west-end of Toronto, through a traditionally West Indian neighborhood called Eglinton West. As we walked, I saw a woman approaching us with pale white skin and a long brownish-red weave. After she walked by, I leaned over and whispered to my mother, “Is that woman albino like Yellowman?” To which my mother laughed and replied, “No, Lincoln, she just bleached her skin.”
Hearing that at a young age was damn-near incomprehensible. Why the hell would someone do that to themselves? Why did that woman think her skin looked good? What was the actual purpose of skin bleaching? Growing up in a West Indian community, I was confronted with skin bleaching on more occasions than these. And before long, I realized that skin bleaching is self-hatred.