Alison's Writing Portfolio · On Culture & Trends · On History · On Places & Travel

Skin Whitening, Blackface and The Export of American Shame – Perceptive Travel

The other day,  I happened across a Foreign Policy blog piece about a new Facebook app launched by cosmetics company Vaseline. It was targeted to the Indian market, and it allows users to lighten their skin in their profile pictures.

Now, the politics and history of skin color and race deeply fascinate me… probably due to the years I spent writing for American Demographics magazine earlier in my career, although more recent evidence of this interest can be found in this essay about The Negro Motorist’s Green Book;  or in this piece on how heat waves were used to justify slavery.

I’d already written a bit about skin whitening in Asia before — it’s something that never fails to catch my eye when I travel there — but I thought I’d take another run at the topic, this time including some “beautiful and colourful” blackface dolls I saw for sale in Melbourne, and pictured above.

Here’s the piece for Perceptive Travel. I have a feeling I’m not quite done with this subject yet.

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5 thoughts on “Skin Whitening, Blackface and The Export of American Shame – Perceptive Travel

  1. Oh, this is a fascination of mine as well. I haven’t clicked over to the PT piece yet, but I will. Just wanted to say that these same produces are available in Latin America, too. Around the corner from where we lived in Mexico City was a pharmacy that sold skin whitening creams and–I’m not even kidding–nasal inserts to make one’s nose smaller and “more appealing.” The next time I’m there, I’m going to buy a pair of those suckers because one day they’ll be a relic. I hope.

  2. What?!? Wow! I can’t imagine how those nose inserts work — it would seem to me that anything you’d shove up there would make your nose look wider, so there must be some sort of suction action?

    What a world. This is why I don’t write fiction. 🙂

  3. I know; it makes NO sense. I fully intend to investigate. 🙂 And yes, totally with you on “this is why I don’t write fiction.” I’ve always said real life is far too interesting.

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