Crusaders for social justice and tyrannical equality the globe over appear bent on overturning the innate backbone of human nature.
At The Guardian, writer Afua Hirsch bemoans one of the indomitable traits of human nature: that all ethnicities and races, subtly and openly, embrace light skin as a mark of beauty and physical appeal. Conversely, the darkest shades of skin are generally a source of repulsion. This is a human perception trait that has instilled itself into our mentality for most of our evolutionary time line.
Still, Hirsch fights reality stubbornly, like so many other shamans of the left. Unscientific and liberally superstitious, these people are willfully blind in matters of biological pragmatism. They virtue signal against human nature. They detest human nature because its utilitarian core has no compulsion to assuage against the harsh (and unequal) realities of biology and the evolution of the human creature.
Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.
Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.
Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg.
In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.
Does Hirsch not find it telling that people are willing to swim in toxic brews for the sake of having fair skin? It strokes her narrative to turn human nature into a glib artifact rather than the immutable psychological foundation that it truly represents.
As such, Nivea’s ad with its clever Natural Fairness branding is bang on trend. The product itself may be safe to use, but the messaging that sells it is as deeply poisonous as ever.
The message is not an accident nor does it create perception. Like all advertisement, it merely exploits latent human behavior motivations. Equality tyrants, unable to defeat human nature, seek to legislate it out of existence and to collectively shame it in the court of public opinion. But at the end of the day…light skin remains intuitively preferable to most people, from all countries and economic classes, including those that people like Hirsch seek to “protect” from the purveyors of “shadism.”