Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Liberating Skin Bleachers: From Mental Pathology to Complex Personhood

Christopher A.D. Charles


The dominant explanation for skin bleaching is self hate. This article uses the construct of complex personhood to liberate the skin bleachers from mental pathology. The bleaching syndrome in the literature has not being empirically verified in the Black community and does not deal with the physical bleaching of the skin. The argument that colorism drives skin bleaching and promotes Whiteness ignores the range of non-white identities constructed by the skin bleachers and their rejection of whiteness. The research in Africa reveals the negative dermatological, medical and neurological effects of skin bleaching influenced by the colorized neo-colonial institutions. The self hate thesis persists in the academy and ignores the psychic strength and agency of Blacks to resist oppression. Skin bleaching is explained by colorism and miseducation. Complex personhood says the skin bleachers have functional and multidimensional goal directed selves with strengths, weaknesses, ambiguities, contradictions and resilience. This personhood liberates the skin bleachers from mental pathology by (1) rejecting rigid identity binaries, (2) accepting their vulnerabilities which are separated from the trauma of slavery, (3) highlighting their black identity, (4) revealing their psychic strength and autonomy in their defense of their body modification and (5) articulating their daily optimal psychological functioning.


Self hate, bleaching, Jamaica, complex personhood

Full Text:


JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

Published by Africa Resource Center, Inc. All inquiries about rights, permissions, reprints and license should be directed to AfricaResource.

Copyright © Africa Resource Center, Inc., 1999 - .