Is skin bleaching a part of Jamaican culture?

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18 Karat Reggae Gold 2021 : ONENESS
18 Karat Reggae Gold 2021 : ONENESS
Dutty Boukman and Vybz Kartel
Dutty Boukman and Vybz Kartel

Recently, a young Jamaican claimed that skin bleaching has always been a part of the Jamaican culture. She was responding to an article that claimed that Vybz Kartel was responsible for both the popularity and mainstream acceptance of bleaching in Jamaica.

“That’s BS. Way before Vybz Kartel, nadinola (a bleaching cream) was flying off the shelves in Jamaica. Skin bleaching has been a part of the culture he was born into it just like the rest of us,” the young lady said.

After 18 Karat Reggae suggested that while Jamaica has more than its fair share of skin bleachers, it is not really a part of the culture, the young lady doubled down on her initial response.

“It’s (skin bleaching) definitely a part of the culture and Vybz Kartel didn’t make it popular, it was already a thing he just capitalized off it and exposed our none-sense to the world,” she reiterated.

Is this young lady correct? Is skin bleaching really a part of the Jamaican culture? For something to be a part of a culture, at least a third of the people within that culture must be doing it. So if skin bleaching is part of Jamaican culture then it would be expected that at least 1 million Jamaicans are bleaching their skin since the island has a population of 3 million people. While it is certainly not difficult to see a skin bleacher walking around in Jamaica, it is definitely not one out of every three Jamaicans that bleach their skin,

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Christianity is a part of Jamaican culture. Reggae Music is a part of Jamaican culture. Dancehall is a part of Jamaican culture. While less than one third of Jamaicans are Rastafarians it is still a part of Jamaican culture because it is embedded, interweaved and accepted by the society in general. Skin bleaching has never really been accepted by Jamaican society; in fact it was frowned upon.

Jamaica rightfully can boast that it is one of the leading countries when it comes to Black empowerment, Black upliftment and promoting the embracing of one’s Blackness. It is not by coincidence that most of Jamaica’s national heroes are Black freedom fighters like Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and Marcus Garvey. Although not a national hero but certainly deserves to be one, Jamaica also gave the world Dutty Boukman.

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So it is rather unfair to the island to say skin bleaching is part of its culture when it has produced so many great men and women who dedicated their lives to encourage Black people to see strength, power and beauty in their melanin. Moreover for every famous skin bleacher like Vybz Kartel, there are at least 5 famous Jamaicans encouraging Jamaicans to see beauty in themselves; like Sizzla, I-Wayne, Capleton and Tarrus Riley.



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