Op-ed on Spice’s “Black Hypocrisy”

KINGSTON, Jamaica – (October 25 2018): After speaking on Sunrise TV about Spice’s message in her new single “Black Hypocrisy,” I wanted to clarify my thoughts on the event, and properly articulate my position for today’s cultural climate.

First, I want to thank Spice for being brave to openly address this topic, which is complex and tied to hundreds of years of enslavement and colonization and being told we were less than animals, heathens, and ugly, which we have internalized.

Although Spice’s message is presented as a criticism of today’s beauty standards, and seems to be condemning the notion that whiteness is beautiful, she is also personally partaking in this rhetoric. Spice’s act of making herself ‘white’ has a dual message; even though she is criticizing it, she is also still PROFITING from it, and therefore implicitly promoting these standards of beauty.

We spoke yesterday of how we might combat these damaging standards of beauty through the ranks of our education system, but it is not just our education system that needs to change and address this. This notion of European beauty has been institutionalized and whiteness as the only standard of beauty is rampant throughout the world. In fact, more bleaching occurs throughout Asia, among Indians, Chinese, and even Japanese. Blacks are not the only ones fighting this distortion. This is not the sole responsibility of our educators, it impacts every strata of society, and therefore is the responsibility of all people of Jamaica, and especially us adults.

The media and advertising industry is most guilty of perpetuating these images, where whiteness or brownness or bi-racial mixed identity is privileged and consistently shown as ideal. Black women, especially dark skin black women – who are the majority – are removed from the beauty category and when used in advertising. They are normally linked to domesticity through products such as detergents and other kitchen supplies. I say Black women must boycott these products and tell advertisers in very clear language that we will not continue to purchase your products unless you include our beautiful diverse selves!

Adults across every industry, including PR and advertising, need to make themselves aware of how they may be implicitly promoting these colonial standards of beauty, and therefore profiting from a system of oppression.

Think about your own life and occupation, how can you combat these oppressive paradigms left over from colonialism?

Can we combat this lingering oppression of a colonial history without also profiting from it? Let’s find out.

Professor Opal Palmer Adisa
Institute for Gender and Development Studies
Regional Headquarters, The University of the West Indies