The population of Jamaica is about 97% black, but it wasn’t until 1968 when Karlene Waddell, became the first black woman to win the Miss Jamaica title. Many of the black winners since have features that many could describe as more Eurocentric or less African in appearance.

As an English-speaking, majority Afro-descent society, skin tone plays a significant role in the desirability stakes and it has become the trend for many to apply dangerous chemicals to leach the melanin out of their skin.

There’s a soap advert from my youth I remember aired regularly on Jamaican TV. In it, several black people are relaxing by the poolside. Suddenly, a svelte light-skinned woman emerges from the water oozing oodles of sex appeal. Her hair is long and silky, and her skin is very light coloured. All the men sit up, paying attention to her soft curves and smooth caramel tones. The women stare on in equal parts admiration and envy at her glowing skin and luscious locks. A voice-over booms in a rich baritone announcing the name of the soap and proclaims, “for the complexion you want.”

Our preoccupation with skin tone is not a uniquely Jamaican thing, its pervasive in many black cultures, and particularly those with histories set in juxtaposition to white colonisation.

On this episode, we explore some of the elements of colourism that affect us as black people, we talk about interracial dating and whether the concept of upholding whiteness as aspirational is a real problem in some of our communities.

Check out this music video by Ghetts, mentioned on the episode.

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In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

My wife and I are in a cross-cultural relationship. We’re both black, but she’s of Ghanaian heritage and I was born in Jamaica. If you listened to the first episode of Marriages Behind Closed Doors, then you will have heard about some of the specific cultural challenges we faced during the engagement and leading up to the wedding.

For black men, dating outside of your race can bring its own difficulties, particularly from within the black community. There is a deeply held stereotype that many successful black men will choose to date and marry women of other races. There are countless forums on the internet criticising TV starts, sports personalities and other successful black men who have chosen to date or marry women of other races, and there is a lot of pain and anger from some black women about this.

There is another deeply held stereotype which offers a small part of the explanation as to why that may be the case. Black women are sometimes seen as problematic, angry and confrontational. In the desirability stakes, black women feature very low on the totem pole. Lighter skin, longer hair and more demure features have long been upheld as the standard of femininity and beauty.

Additionally, the history of racism and social privilege does not automatically lend itself to making black women the natural inhabitants of the upper echelons of society. The gender disparity in the figures of interracial marriage within the United States are significant and show that black men are choosing to marry outside of their race at substantially higher rates than black women do.

As a result, many black women feel cast aside and unloved by the black men they raised. 

This is obviously a very complex subject to dissect, and one that requires extreme care and sensitivity. In this episode, Daniel, Andre, Maurice and I all try to keep the conversation fairly light and humorous however, you will hear undertones of many of these issues as we talk about our own experiences.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.