Evil Enlightenment 121


You were not expecting my thoughts on Michael Jackson and Beyonce Knowles.

This blog is effectively closed down during the period of yuletide festivity, during most of which I am happy to say the world gets subsumed in a warm glow of family, friends, goodwill and alcohol. The gears are grinding behind the surface and I have some explosive stuff on Adam Werritty for the New Year. But today I have escaped from the eight adults and five children watching Beyonce in the sitting room to pen some of the thoughts that it just aroused in me (actually most of the thoughts Beyonce arouses in me are best not written down, but that is another story).

For me the most interesting thing about the sorry Michael Jackson death trial was when Dr Conrad Murray announced that he had cleared out some “embarassing” creams from Jackson’s bedroom before the arrival of police. At first this sounded like it might relate to medication causing Jackson’s death; then it sounded like it might relate to Jackson’s sex life – anal lubricant? Then finally the information came out – they were skin lightening creams.

Which is what connects to Beyonce Knowles, who is beyond doubt many degrees lighter than she used to be, a fact which seems largely to escape comment. I know people in Ghana and in Nigeria who have really disfiguring marks – most commonly a series of ruched lines of skin on the body something like stretch marks – which will be with them for life, as a result of using skin lightening creams. In West Africa mercury is frequently a component.

One of my first rows with my employers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office happened in 1986 when I held the lowly position of Second Secretary (Commercial) in the British High Commission in Lagos. The sale of such creams in the UK had been very recently outlawed due to EU regulation, but it was at that time still legal to manufacture in the UK poisonous skin lightening products – including those containing mercury – for export outside the EU. I ejected from my office with little ceremony a gentleman from Birmingham wanting help from the High Commission in Lagos with his sales of mercury soaps. I recall having no sympathy at all from FCO colleagues over my stand. Why it took me twenty more years to realise I was in the wrong organisation is a tribute to my stupidity.

The pressure on black people to be as deracialised as Beyonce or Michael Jackson is a kind of racially aggravated version of the standards of physical appearance foisted on us every day by the advertising industry. It is the same process, operating in a different way, that gives us identikit politicians like Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Miliband, all striving to look like Pierce Brosnan, and devoid of deep political content.

My studies for Alexander Burnes have convinced me that the great incubus of colonial racialist baggage was largely an invention of the 1830’s onwards. Prior to that, the West largely judged people by religious affiliation before skin colour. There is no presumption in the writings of Mungo Park or Alexander Burnes of any intellectual superiority on their part on grounds of skin colour. The much underestimated presence of black people in the UK for centuries partly reflects the fact that they were viewed just as people. Of course this is broad brush, and the 18th century gentlemen with their picaresque coloured servants could have racist attitudes – and slave plantations. But it was not in general assumed that white meant superior in the way the racial construct arose during the mid-Victorian period.

It is also of course the case that prejudice in favour of the lighter skinned could be observed in Indian and African societies themselves as early as at least the seventeenth century, and that the relationship of those prejudices to lighter skinned governing elites or European contacts and mixed race people is a complex question.

But with all these caveats, it is still reasonable to assert that the mania among the fashionable young and black to have a lighter skin than God gave them is a reinforcement of the colonial and slave-owning prejudices of a couple of centuries.

I am as white as they come – almost blue like a good Scot. And pretty ugly. Colour has nothing to do with beauty.

It is illegal, but sales of skin lightening products in the UK are probably higher now that when they were still legal in the 1970’s. The real question is, what are we doing that makes people so unhappy with their own colour that they risk serious damage in this way?


121 thoughts on “Evil Enlightenment

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  • Suhayl Saadi

    Read Franz Fanon.
    .
    Yes, it’s shocking, Craig. And worse now than during the ‘black and proud’ 1970s. therte is a shop near me which quietly advertises this stuff – it’s close to an African grocery store, how dreadful. When I said this to a young perosn of drak complexion, they shrugged and told me that they didn’t see it as any difefrent from tanning salons. But it IS different, I insisited. People go for tans because they want to look affluent – daft and dangerous – but that’s it. Skin lightening – also dangerous – carries much more odious racist and self-hate baggage. It’s corrosive in every sense. The young person shrugged and said they saw nothing wrong with it.
    .
    This is the point we have reached. We are supposwed to be ‘post-racist’. We are not post-racist. As a society/world, we remain racist. It’s just become more difficilt to fight it because of false consciousness.

  • Sophia

    “Why it took me twenty more years to realise I was in the wrong organisation is a tribute to my stupidity”

    It is not stupidity, it is our belief that other people are principled like us or have a mind like ours. It is a strong and essential belief that allows us to communicate, to be part of a crowd, a society, humanity, and it is only (not always) when bad things deriving from this belief affect us that we tend to scrutinise it.

  • Sophia

    Craig,

    White supremacism/racism is an integral part of the colonial enterprise. People had to be dominated in every aspect including skin colour.

    White supremacism started on the American continent. But America was too far away for white supremacism to be felt at home in Europe, American natives did not emigrate to Europe as Africans, Ottomans and Arabs did.

    White supremacism was felt in Europe in the 1830s at the same time France and britain started colonising Africa and the ME.

    Happy New Year!

  • Fedup

    “The real question is, what are we doing that makes people so unhappy with their own colour that they risk serious damage in this way?”
    ,
    A very good question, which really needs a comprehensive research into the imperatives and value systems, that ultimately result in a construct of self identity, and self projection.
    ,
    However the ball game can be started with the cultural/scientific/political hegemony that is promoted through the film industry, the glamour industry, NGO, and aid programmes.
    ,
    Unfortunately, the comprehensive efforts in undermining the various cultures and religions, and value system as a precursor and a first step in conquest of the various lands, has resulted in the grotesque display of self hatred among the target audiences/populations.

  • CanSpeccy

    Here’s something posted on your blog by “Fedup” under “Free Speech for the Unlovely”. Is this a sock puppet of yours, a lunatic, or approved hate speech by the unlovely?
    .
    Your moderators seem to have no trouble with it:
    .
    @ Fedup:

    “hateful mongrel interloper,
    You were invited to supply a DNA profile on your blog, to provide corroboration for your claims, which so far you have failed to do so.
    ,
    Your tactics of spewing racist hatred and then whence called upon to explain yourself, you resort to backpeddling to NWO, tap dancing around the issues of being on record, and engaging in; “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
    ,
    Your constant self referencing, wilful, and malicious racist comments, that is time and again peppered with “genocide through immigration”, is clearly designed to inflame, and enrage the recipients of your hateful falsehoods, stand as record for all to see, as in: “70% of the British population consider people like you to be a traitor.”
    ,
    You little prick having gamed the system; “free speech/Unlovely/freedom of expression”, how dare you to take refuge in the law, and invoke liable laws? What the fuck are you? How much is your fucking worth? The damages you intend to make good is in what regards? What would be the damages awarded to to an odious mongrel, posing as a “white” wanker, intent on inflaming hatred aginst immigrants and pushing race hatred as a matter of routine?”

  • CanSpeccy

    As for skin color, black, white, pink with green stripes. who cares? Only whinging Anglophobes it seems.
    .
    If black people don’t like being black shouldn’t that be their problem, not mine? Or will the politically correct demand that white people paint themselves black as punishment for the proved-without-evidence charge of being white supremacists?

  • craig Post author

    Can Speccy

    Fedup is just a commenter. I know him no more than I know you. As far as I can see, nobody deleted anything either of you entered as comments. Readers can judge themselves the relative merits of what you were both saying. We very seldom delete stuff.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Sophia, yes indeed, great posts, thanks. The work of Franz Fanon, though a little outdated now, is a good introduction to this whole area, esp. in relation to Africa. There’s been much more research, of course, across continents wrt this theme.
    .
    As someone who grew up in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, I understand exactly how someone would develop such self-hate on the basis of skin colour. As a teenager, I occasionally rubbed talc into my face. How degrading is that? I’ve written fiction around some of this internalised demon.
    .

    It is also intrinsic in South Asian society, I regret to say. Potential brides on websites/ in magazines will be ‘advertised’ as being fair-skinned (as well as by caste, specific micro-religious and nano-regional grouping, etc.). It is often unreconstructed racism in South Asian communities. Black Africans are regarded by many in these communities as extremely unsuitable partners and we know the history of South Asians in east Africa, for example. This is not solely due to the British Empire, though as with the caste system, the British Empire certainly reinforced it. It was there before, though, wrt the self-annointed ‘Aryans’ versus the pre-existing Tamil, etc. populations.
    .
    As a moderately-tanned person, when one engages in society, in general, around the world (including, I think, in the UK) one is treated better if people think you are of Mediterranean or even Middle Eastern origin than South Asian or African origin. This is partly to do with the wealth of those places, but mainly is to do with skin colour – racism. I am treated better than darker Southh Asians. I know this. So, one can see these toxic drivers in operation, even today, even inside oneself, even though one hates the same internal drivers. A good place for art, but a bad place for life. Still, people have all kinds of problems, most far greater than just skin colour. It is the difficulties that make us strong and make us truly live! But to lighten one’s skin? No. That would be like running onself with excreta.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Craig: “As far as I can see, nobody deleted anything either of you entered as comments”
    .
    Not true as of the last time I looked. My response to a particularly vile and mendacious statement by “Fedup” was not displayed.
    .
    Anyway, there’s nothing shocking about black people wanting to lighten the color of their skin. It is an empirically established fact that white people instinctively relate better with other white people and that black people instinctively relate better with other black people than with white people. To that extent, racism is hard wired.
    .
    It is not surprising, therefore, if black people in a predominantly light-skinned society wish to lighten their skin. But that’s a matter of their own choice, not something forced on them by white supremacist racists as you are trying to imply.
    .
    In the case of Jackson, he was selling himself to a predeminantly light skinned audience, so lightening the color of his skin was just a matter of maximizing profit.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    ‘rubbing onself’, I should’ve written!
    .
    And yes, FedUp’s comment on this thread was a good one, though as Nuid pointed out recently, did FedUp not refer to me as “a bubba” (supposedly ‘a coconut’) at one point? Well, FedUp, if it was you (if not, my apologies), would you like to take that one back, please? It was unwarranted. This might an apt time to ask. I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

  • craig Post author

    CanSpeccy,

    Comments are never pre-moderated. If a comment fails to appear, it is because the software took agin it, goodness knows why. You are not alone – even the most regular commenters are always convinced there is a sinister human agency. There isn’t.

  • Fedup

    Craig,
    The “comment” has appeared at the correct time slot. Don’t waste time, get on with making merry.

  • John Goss

    My eighteenth century specialisation relates to Robert Bage (1730-1801). He was a papermaker from Staffordshire who wrote six novels. Through my interest in the hand-made paper industry I discovered this much-neglected novelist. Without having read one of his novels I wrongly assumed in my brain that he must have been a crap writer, just because I had never heard of him. I won’t go into why one of the best-selling late eighteenth century novelists went almost into terminal decline but, believe me, they are well worth the candle.
    .
    There is no racism in the message of his novels, they are egalitarian in every respect. There are bad characters of all nationalities, and good ones. An offshoot of my research into Bage led me to the discovery of another novelist, Elizabeth Jervis, also from the Tamworth area, and previously unheard of. (Not many dare end a sentence with a preposition!) She wrote just one novel, before she married and after the death of her husband, another reformer like Bage, she went on to write several volumes of poetry and a short treatise on education. In her novel, quite unique for its time, a Jew comes to the aid of the imprisoned protagaonist, who had tried to stop racist abuse against him when he was a boy. This was published anonymously betweeen Shakespeare’s ‘Shylock’ and Dickens’ ‘Fagin’. Everybody who can use his or her brain knows that people, whatever their nationality, religion, politics, race or culture are human beings.
    .
    When I work I work in social research and meet all kinds of people. I have never met one who believes that a Chinaman cannot mate with an Iraqi, that an Eskimo cannot breed with a New Zealander, that a Russian, or any other nationality, cannot progenerate with other human beings on God’s earth. That was the design. Darwin was not wrong, totally. Neither was Lamarck totally wrong. Einstein was not totally correct. And neither am I.
    .
    If Michael Jackson, and I feel sorry for his ‘black’ doctor, chose to use drugs that changed the pigmentation of his skin, that is his decision. If Beyonce does the same that is her decision. Doctors, however much they are paid, should not be imprisoned for trying to help their patients. But this is America.

  • Fedup

    Craig,
    A veritable beerfest! Enjoy the nectar, and enjoy the warmth of the family around you, this is what life is about, these moments of contentment cannot be bought with millions of pounds.
    ,
    I am having a cider night, although the absence of scrumpy is based on strategic thinking.

  • Fedup

    Suhayl Saadi,
    ROFL @ “I am the sinister supra-human…….
    ,
    There is a book; “How the Irish Became White”, exploring the “cultural racism and white cultural identity”. Dear Suhayl “race” is a control construct, it has no meaning, and no basis in biology.
    ,
    PS thanks for the links.

  • CanSpeccy

    “… prejudice in favour of the lighter skinned could be observed in Indian and African societies themselves as early as at least the seventeenth century, and that the relationship of those prejudices to lighter skinned governing elites or European contacts and mixed race people is a complex question”
    .
    Sure is complex, And you might think about the influence of the Indians’ own lighter skinned governing elite, the brahmins.
    .
    These were the descendants of Persian conquerors who imposed the caste system, placing themselves at the top.
    .
    Persians are light skinned, and except from differences in dress or background, a crowd of Iranians at a football match would be difficult to distinguish from a crowd of pre-1950’s Englishmen.
    .
    But in any case, the preference shown by some Indians for a lighter skin is almost certainly a product of the caste system, not of British colonialism.
    .
    In fact, during the colonial era, many Brits, .e.g, Enoch Powell, regarded the Indians as white people, which makes sense because they are of the same hairy, big-nosed stock as the West Europeans.

  • Ed L

    I wouldn’t normally bother but I should have thought that someone so intimately familiar with his oeuvre might know that his name is FRANTZ FANON, not Franz Fanon.

  • CanSpeccy

    ““race” is a control construct, it has no meaning, and no basis in biology.”
    .
    Having graduated with first class honours and the faculty of biology prize, allow me to put you straight on one thing.
    .
    Race is a reality, the denial of which in the form of nationality, infringes the UN Declaration on Human Rights.
    .
    A race is a perfectly clear biological concept. It refers to a more or less isolated inbreeding population, which becomes differentiated from other races as the result of genetic drift, selective pressure and mutation.
    .
    That’s why Craig Murray is distinguishable from a Chinese an Indian and many other identifiable races.
    .
    In fact, races can be defined at any level. The Scots and the English may be considered separate races, yet they are descended from the same Celtic population (with some relatively small additions, ME agrarians, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Norman), which have existed in the British Isles since the ice retreated at the beginning of the present inter-glacial.
    .
    Equally, you could say the people of Edinburgh and Glasgow are of different races, although both, if they are of long local descent, are very very much more similar to one another, racially, than they are to an immigrant for the Indian sub-continent, China or Peru.
    .
    I know it’s futile trying to point out even simple scientific facts to a bunch of liberal ideologues if it conflicts with their deep hatred of white people, but do try to realize how incredibly stupid or dishonest it makes you sound to thus deny the undeniable.

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