A Brief Black/White/Light History of Skin Bleaching/ Lightening/Toning

  • Shirley Anne Tate


This chapter destabilizes the Manicheanism of iconic whiteness and authentic Blackness in skin bleaching’s racialized gender, political and libidinal economies. The discussion begins with ‘white face’ in Europe, the Caribbean colonies and the United States before looking at the complex meanings of the practice among Black women in different Black Atlantic sites, which takes us beyond the usual tropes of ‘self-hate’ and ‘low self-esteem’. The chapter thinks through ‘post-race’ skin bleaching within the ‘third space skins’ of Dencia and Mshoza. Neither of these women want to be white but to embody a lightness that is not antithetical to Blackness and a part of it. Third space skins emerge in the interstices of white supremacy and Black nationalism, as women embrace artifice through ‘post-race’, self-affirming, aesthetic enhancement and choice.


White Woman Black Woman Dominican Republic Dark Skin Light Skin 
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Copyright information

© Shirley Anne Tate 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirley Anne Tate
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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