Bleachers Anonymous!

As a part of my internship in the Gleaner’s online department I have to work with the other intern to produce some videos for their websites in the form of vox pops and mini features. The one we started filming this week was inspired by a story published in the Gleaner on December 29, 2010.

This was the headline: “Rub it out – Health ministry to take second shot at eradicating skin-lightning culture, warns against use of cake soap”

(Click on the link below to read the story)

On the day the paper was published I had a good laugh in the office as my coworkers sat talking about it. The discussion went from people pointing out that people who bleach tend to have very low self esteem, to Vybez Kartel’s plans to introduce his own cake soap  and a whole host of other opinions when one person said “just like alchoholics anonymous we need a bleachers anonymous in Jamaica cause these people are addicted to the bleaching”.

Bleaching refers to the use of products that result in a lightning of one’s normal complexion.

Up to this point I had been listening quietly but that comment cracked me up! I would love to see a bunch of people from down town Kingston in a ‘BA” meeting. “Hi my name is Marva and I’m a bleacher…” Epic!!

Although I laughed when I heard it he does have a point. The health ministry’s campaign to eradicate skin lightning culture will face some major problems. Bleaching isn’t just skin deep. Its psychological and we have to get into the minds o f these people to help them see themselves as being beautiful in their own skin. Many people who who bleach believe that being black isn’t something to be proud of and it is only when we can get these people to look in the mirror and be able to say to themselves that “my  black is beautiful” that we can start addressing this problem.

I’d like to highlight the fact that the Health Ministry might be overlooking something that is of great significance to their campaign. Bleaching has become a culture. Its not just a fad or a hobby but a way of life of a people. How can you eradicate a way of life?? History shows that this is virtually impossible to do. Slaves brought here from Africa were seasoned to erase their values, beliefs and practices but they found ways to keep them alive and I do believe that even if the government can find ways to prevent the illegal items from being used to bleach people will get creative. well, more creative as they already have a number of creams made from household items.

The article highlights the fact  that the police are going to clamp down on illegal substances that are currently being used to bleach. I don’t want to be a pessimist but I say good luck with that. And not to reign on anyone’s parade but after these illegal drugs are removed what will be done about the legal things that people use to bleach? We can’t put a ban on curry and toothpaste and hair relaxer? I mean I might not miss the relaxer since I’ve gone Empress ‘n ting but my teeth haffi brush and them can’t rob me of my curry chicken/back.

I’ve always wondered though, how do these illegal products get into the country in the first palce? Don’t we have a director of customs and a bunch of clamping down activities at the customs department and the warf already? I’d really like to know how these products pass through such “tight” security.

The Ministry has taken on a virtually impossible task and I wish them all the best in their efforts. However I would be lying if I say that I believe it’s going to work. They simply do not have the resources to go about it and after all you can not eradicate a culture.

Til next time,



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