Journal of Black Studies

http://jbs.sagepub.com Skin Bleaching, Self-Hate, and Black Identity in Jamaica
Christopher A. D. Charles Journal of Black Studies 2003; 33; 711 DOI: 10.1177/0021934703033006001 The online version of this article can be found at: http://jbs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/6/711

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Charles / SKIN BLEACHING, JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / JULY 2003 10.1177/0021934703251098 SELF-HATE, AND IDENTITY

SKIN BLEACHING, SELF-HATE, AND BLACK IDENTITY IN JAMAICA
CHRISTOPHER A. D. CHARLES
City University of New York University of the West Indies

The Afrocentric view concerning Jamaicans who bleach their skins is that they suffer from self-hate, a result of the lingering psychological scars of slavery. The self-hatred thesis is tested by comparing the self-esteem scores of a small convenience sample of skin bleachers with the scores of a control group. The two groups have almost the same average scores above the median, which indicates that skin bleaching did not occur because of low self-esteem. The preliminary results suggest that there are varied reasons for skin bleaching and there is a range of Black identities as each person constructs his or her identity in a multicultural society. Keywords: skin bleaching; self-hate; miseducation; identity; survival

This essay looks at Black identity in Jamaica. Some Jamaicans have been using skin-bleaching creams to become brown or less Black. Health officials became concerned because, increasingly, dermatologists were treating people with damaged skin because of bleaching (Daily Gleaner, 1999a). Plantation slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1838. Colonialism ended when Jamaica received its independence from Britain in 1962. More than 90% of the population is of African descent and

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article was presented at the 32nd annual conference of the Jean Piaget Society, June 6-8, 2002, Philadelphia, PA. I would like to thank William Cross Jr., Anna Song, and Stacey Brodie for their insightful comments and Jo-Ann Johnson and Sigmund Mighty for their research assistance. I, however, take full responsibility for any shortcomings in this article.
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they dominate the political landscape and operate the Westminster model of democracy. However, the economy is dominated by the minority White, Jewish, Arab, Chinese, and East Indian population. There is minimal tension in the society over race, but class and color distinctions are important (Smith, 1990). Self-hate or low self-esteem is often posited as the explanation for the bleaching phenomenon. Slavery was a traumatizing experience for the enslaved Africans. They were brainwashed to hate themselves by the elevation of British values over African ones. The descendants of enslaved Africans through socialization have internalized the negative attitudes about themselves. Skin bleaching is the contemporary evidence of the deep-rooted and lingering psychological scars of slavery in particular and colonization in general (Abrahams, 2000; Singham, 1968). The negative influence of the plantations persists with astounding resilience (Beckford, 1972). The psychological scars of slavery are the marks of oppression (Kardiner & Ovesey, 1951). I hypothesize that skin bleaching is caused by low self-esteem. Self-esteem is a person’s overall positive or negative attitude toward himself or herself. A person with high self-esteem thinks that he or she is a person of worth. On the other hand, low selfesteem indicates contempt, rejection, or dissatisfaction with the self (Rosenberg, 1978).

IDENTITY

Identity development occurs during the period of adolescence when the youth is confronted with the critically important questions of, Who am I? and How do I fit into the adult world? In answering these questions, the youth reorganizes his or her early life into a meaningful pattern that links his or her past to the present (as it is perceived) and the future. This is necessary to achieve purpose and unity in one’s life (Erikson, 1993, 1994). The cognitive abilities of the youth and the use of formal operations are of critical importance in this process (Piaget, 1972).

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Identity is also viewed as the narrative or story of the self that each person as the biographer successfully weaves across the life course (McAdams, 1988). It is also the resolution and consolidation of values and life choices and stable commitments a person makes over time (Franklin, 1999). A person’s identity is unconsciously influenced by the mental activities of significant others (Socor, 1997). In addition, identity is important for the survival of the self (Lewis, 1976; Rey, 1976). People construct several identities based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupation, religion, politics, personal relationships, and race. These identities are integrated or ordered in terms of importance. The identity that is used is situational or context dependent. Identity also changes over time (Asante, 1993; Brewer, 2001). It is important to make the distinction between nominal identity and self-affirmed identity. We all are nominated or defined by others and placed in a category based on our physical characteristics. This is nominal identity. On the other hand, we all define and affirm ourselves within the categories that are of importance in our lives. This is self-affirmed identity. It should be noted that people may or may not choose to affirm themselves in their nominal identity category. The doll study undertaken by Kenneth and Mamie Clarke in the United States had a tremendous impact on the self-hatred thesis (Clark & Clark, 1947). Black and White school children were given Black and White dolls and asked to choose the one they prefer. The majority of Black children selected White dolls. It was assumed that because these Black children selected the White dolls, they rejected their Black group. Moreover, their preference was an indication of self-hate. However, it was not assumed that the White children that selected Black dolls hated themselves (Cross, 1991). It should be noted that a person’s total self-concept (SC) is a function of his or her personal identity (PI) and his or her reference group orientation (RGO). In other words, SC = PI + RGO. A person’s PI characteristics are, for example, whether he or she is shy, has low or high self-esteem, is fun-loving, anxious, intelligent, and loves to smile, and so forth. The RGO domain deals with the char-

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acteristics of the groups the individual identifies with (Cross, 1991). In the SC formula, self-hate can only be measured in the PI domain by administering a self-esteem scale. You cannot determine how a person feels about himself or herself by looking at how he or she feels about his or her in-group. However, this is exactly what was done in the doll studies. In other words, PI and RGO are correlated. However, a review of the landmark studies on Black identity that were done in the United States between 1939 to 1960 and 1968 to 1980 revealed that the majority found no correlation between PI and RGO (Cross, 1991). In looking at self-hate and identity, it is important to note that Jamaica is a plural society. In spite of universal adult suffrage, political independence, universalistic incorporation, and modernization, the racial, cultural, and color distinctions of the colonial order persist. For example, in some studies done in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, White high school students evaluated themselves as having more status and importance than the brown students had. The brown students evaluated themselves as having more status and importance than the Black and Chinese students had. The Black and Chinese students in evaluating their self-worth underestimated and undervalued their importance in relation to the other groups (Smith, 1990). Jamaica is also viewed as a Creole society. There is cross-fertilization in that the various groups cling to their heritage but find creative interactions in the inherited British political institutions. However, there is a constant struggle between the African culture and the “superior” European culture (Nettleford, 1978). Those who have embraced their African heritage are resisting the challenges of the European canons (Alleyne, 2001). Others have embraced the European norms and values and have become the standard bearers of this culture because the African heritage has been relegated to the bottom of the society (Brodber, 1989). This has occurred because the colonial situation was a deep-rooted state of mind that left lingering psychological scars. This has, therefore, presented problems for the newly emerging nations of the Caribbean (Singham, 1968). As a consequence, Black mothers in Jamaica tell

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their children that their nappy hair is bad. Moreover, the children are also told that White is better than brown and brown is better than Black. This is why some Black Jamaicans bleach their skin (Abrahams, 2000).

SKIN BLEACHING

The Ministry of Health held a press conference on July 5, 1999, to publicize its counterstrategy to the bleaching phenomenon. It made topical corticosteroids unavailable in the market. In spite of the many publicized dangers of bleaching the skin, such as developing acne and skin cancer among others, steroids were still very popular (Daily Gleaner, 1999a). There is also a $1,000 (US$25) bleaching pill that is in great demand because it can turn a Black Jamaican into a browning. Some of the women “make a dark paste using a mixture of peroxide and baking soda or toothpaste, lemon, Dermaclear, Nadinola and Topiclear, along with a little curry powder, which is reputed to make the color of the face much prettier” (Ritch, 1999). Dr. Neil Persadsingh, a prominent member of the Jamaica Dermatological Association, has denied that there is a bleaching pill (personal interview, April 24, 2002). A dermatologist has estimated that about 10% to 15% of the patients seen by dermatologists are bleaching their skin. This figure ignores those bleachers who are using over-the-counter and homemade products. The majority of persons suffering from skin problems associated with bleaching are said to be females in the 20s to early 30s age group. Men are also involved (Daily Gleaner, 1999a). Astoundingly, “even 10 year olds in school are taking the bleaching pill. Only babies aren’t being given it yet” (Ritch, 1999). The police confiscated dozens of skin creams that were being illegally sold over the counter in small shops, stores, and restaurants, among other places. Some of the illegal products included Top Extra Gel, Prosone, Omic, Regge Lemon, Topsone and Neprosone Gels, and Lemonvate and Movate Creams (Daily Gleaner, 1999a).

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The issue of bleaching has received widespread coverage in the media. The views of columnists and letter writers to the newspapers are instructive. There is one letter titled “For the Color of Me” (Jamaica Observer, 2001b) that captures in essence the bleaching issue.
I have been following the arguments about color, and as a young Black woman (two years out of high school), I realize why my friends use to spend so much time bleaching. They were right. I was wrong. Fairer is better in our country. The guys say so, dancehall [music] says so, my friends say so, beauty contests say so, and learned adults say so! I have a good figure, and a cute face, but I am Black. Therefore, I am saving up all my money to buy my pills and my Ambi, and I will even try blue soap. Hello! I need a life here in Jamaica.

Other writers felt that people bleached because they had low self-esteem (Daily Gleaner, 1999b; Jamaica Observer, 2001a). Another view was that bleaching was because of the realization of the demonstrated cultural superiority of Whites in the West in this historical period. This is seen in their civilizational, scientific, and technological achievements (Daily Gleaner, 1999c). Bleaching also suggested that there were deep problems in Jamaica in relation to race. It was caused by lack of African pride or racial self-esteem (Jamaica Observer, 2001c). The bleaching phenomenon was just “merely the latest examples of the lengths to which women will go, not only to make themselves attractive to men, but simply to be in fashion by doing the in thing” (Cargill, 1999). One male teenage columnist agreed that girls did this to “keep up appearances” (Morgan, 2001). A female teenage columnist countered that boys were guilty of the same thing (Murdock, 2001). The images of success that are portrayed in the Jamaican society are of persons who are White, brown, and fair (Mair, 2001). Therefore, in the “color-coded” Jamaica, the female bleachers were rejecting their Blackness and as such had a major identity crisis on their hands (Ritch, 1999). Bleaching is not only prevalent in

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Jamaica but also in Suriname among the various ethnic groups (Menke, 2002). The colonial notion of beauty that afflicts Black women in the diaspora is a function of slavery and its legacy. Bleaching is also prominent among African women in several countries on that continent (Mair, 2001). Skin bleaching is a universal phenomenon and is a result of cultural domination (Hall, 1995). The postindependence nationalist leaders were also blamed for the bleaching problem. It has been argued that they failed to lift the self-respect and self-esteem of the Black majority (racial selfesteem) over and above the plantation system (Jamaica Observer, 2000). They have also failed to create a sense of being Jamaican so they have been unable to foster national unity (Boyne, 2000). Although there are varying views as to the reasons for skin bleaching, one thing is certain: The bleachers are concerned with their body image. Generally, boys express less concern over their bodies than girls who usually want to be thinner. However, because some boys have low self-esteem, they are dissatisfied with their bodies and so want to be bigger (Cohane & Pope, 2001). In African American women, an important predictor of their self-esteem is their skin color—unlike African American men. However, skin tone predicted Black men’s self-efficacy unlike Black women (Thompson & Keith, 2001). The experience of being female even when it is positive is not able to buffer the feelings of shame that can be triggered by the consciousness of objectifying the body. This also causes the women to be ashamed about the self (Gilmore, 2001). The notions of happiness, beauty, and health in different cultures are unstable. Historically, there have been prejudices against people who reflect bodily differences. Therefore, the cultural assumptions that make aesthetic surgery an acceptable form of psychotherapy should be questioned (Gilman, 1998). To acquire power, some women behave and manage their appearance to conform to the ideal image in the society (Rudd & Lennon, 1999). It was found that women who sought breast-reduction surgery compared to those who did not had greater psychological dysfunction and lower health status (Guthrie, Bradbury, Davenport, & Faria, 1998).

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METHOD
SAMPLE

A convenience sample of 18 persons was interviewed. They ranged in age from 13 to 37. There were 11 females and 7 males. There were 9 participants in the research group and 9 in the control group.
PROCEDURE

The researcher selected the two groups. A visual judgment was made to determine whether there was facial discoloration. The true nature of the study was not revealed initially so as not to prime the respondents because bleaching is an emotive issue in the country. This was done to prevent the participants from giving defensive answers that would distort the self-esteem measure. The participants at the start of the interview were given examples of how the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale (RSE) works with one of two dummy items. These items were “I am a beautiful woman” or “I am a handsome man.” The participants were told to indicate how they felt by choosing from the list of possible responses. The measure was administered after the participants said they fully understood what was required of them.
MEASURE

The measure was a questionnaire with 17 items. Items 1 through 6, respectively, dealt with gender, occupation, income, age, level of education, and residence. Items 7 through 16 composed the RSE scale. The maximum score that can be attained on this scale is 30, indicating very high self-esteem. The median is 15, and scores below this are indicative of low self-esteem. The responses for each item on the scale were strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. Item 17 dealt with the reasons for bleaching; this was only given to the bleaching group.

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TABLE 1

Demographics and Self-Esteem
Gender Research group Female Female Male Female Female Female Female Female Female Control group Male Female Male Male Female Male Female Male Male Age Education Occupation Self-Esteem Rating

26 19 18 16 21 16 16 15 15 22 18 18 21 13 37 26 25 26

High school graduate High school graduate High school student High school student College student High school student High school student High school student High school student College student High school graduate College graduate College student High school student High school graduate High school graduate High school graduate College graduate

Unemployed Unemployed — — — — — — — — Unemployed Unemployed — — Salesman Cashier Press operator Clerk

22 21 18 17 21 21 20 23 22 22 19 18 19 24 17 13 22 19

NOTE: n = 9 participants for each group.

RESULTS

The mean self-esteem score for the bleaching group is 20.5, whereas the mean self-esteem score for the control group is 19.2 (see Table 1). The lowest score for the bleaching group is 17 and the highest score is 23. For the control group, the lowest score is 13 and the highest score is 24. In terms of the bleaching group, all of the participants have self-esteem scores that are above the median. In contrast, the control group has 1 participant with a self-esteem score below the median. The other participants have self-esteem scores above the median. The members of the control group tend to have a slightly lower mean self-esteem score than the bleaching group. This is because 7 of the 9 participants in the research group

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have self-esteem scores of 20 and above. In the control group, 6 of the 9 participants have self-esteem scores under 20. Overall, there is not much difference in the mean self-esteem scores of the two groups. One possible limitation in the results is that the majority of participants in the research group were in adolescence, the critical period of identity development in which they are most open to environmental influences and may have bleaching for this reason rather than low self-esteem. It is possible that if the majority of these participants were not adolescents, their self-esteem scores would be lower. Because low self-esteem is not associated with bleaching, at least for this small research group, the participants’ self-reports about why they bleach should be given more weight because they can direct us to some of the possible reasons for the bleaching phenomenon in Jamaica. In the bleaching group, 8 of the self-reports cited a beauty-related reason for bleaching. One participant said she loved the “brown thing” because it made her look better. Another used the bleaching cream to prevent acne and keep her skin smooth. One said she liked how it looked. Another said she did it for style because it made her look pretty. Four of the participants said they bleached because they wanted to get rid of facial pimples. The remaining participant did it because her “friends were doing it.” Because this is a very small sample, generalizations cannot be made about the larger population. These preliminary findings suggest the need for further research. However, these findings should shed some light on the issue of conceptualizing Black identity in Jamaica.

DISCUSSION

Because there is no major difference in the mean self-esteem scores for the two groups, this indicates that low self-esteem was not the reason for skin bleaching. This will, of course, be surprising to those who propose the self-hatred thesis as the reason for the skin-bleaching phenomenon in Jamaica. It is very possible that in a

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larger representative sample, there might very well be a deterministic correlation between low self-esteem and skin bleaching. I suspect that some persons who bleach their skin do suffer from selfhate, but this is not the whole story. What the convenience sample has shown is that there are several factors that account for skin bleaching in Jamaica, and self-hate may be one of them. Only further research will determine the major factors that account for skin bleaching in Jamaica. If self-hate is found to be the dominant cause of skin bleaching in the future, the researcher will have to determine if it is caused by the psychological scars of slavery or environmental stimuli. Some of these stimuli are a harsh childhood in which the child’s inner needs were ignored by the parents, or a series of overwhelming failures that beset an adult, such as going through a very terrible divorce and being unable to find suitable employment over a very long period of time. The self-hate thesis from slavery ignores the fact that there are postslavery traumas that we all face that can cause low self-esteem. The proponents of the self-hatred thesis in Jamaica made similar mistakes to the Clarks and other scholars who researched Black identity and self-hate in America. The Jamaican scholars assume that PI and RGO are correlated. It is argued that the Jamaicans who bleach their skins hate themselves. The desire to change one’s skin color to look different from one’s racial group is caused by the psychological scars of the hierarchical plural society. The postcolonial structure and its color distinctions promote the Anglo-Saxon culture as the societal ideal. Therefore, those who bleach their skin want to be the best standard bearers of the White culture. However, the thousands of tourists who flock to the vacation resorts in Jamaica every year and use skin tan lotion to become less White are not deemed to be suffering from self-hate. Moreover, those Jamaicans who are nominally White, Chinese, or Indian but have affirmed themselves as Black are not viewed as hating themselves. However, it is assumed that all those Black Jamaicans who bleach their skins suffer from self-hate. The skin color issue falls within the RGO domain of the formula total SC = PI + RGO. PI and RGO are integrated at the intrapsychic level. However, although each person in the context of the RGO

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shares the norms and values of the group and its belief system, each member has a different PI profile. Therefore, even though PI and RGO are integrated at the individual level, it is not very predictive across persons. None of the participants in the bleaching group had self-esteem scores lower than the median 15, and all the members of this group had comparable self-esteem scores to the members of the control group. In this preliminary research, it was found that PI and RGO are related but not correlated. This result is similar to most of the results found in the review of the landmark studies on Black identity and self-hate that were done in the United States. Some Black Jamaicans recognize the color and racial distinctions in the society. This should not be viewed as self-contempt. It is borne out by their experience that the Blacker one is, the less status and privilege one has in the society. They recognize the reality of contemporary Jamaica. They do not necessarily accept it. There are others, in my view, who believe in the correctness of the existing color distinctions. They are, therefore, proud of the achievements and status of the brown and White sections of the society, over and above that of the Black majority. Some of these people suffer from low racial/group self-esteem because they value their Black group less than the other racial and color groups in the country. The independence and postindependence political leaders have been accused of failing to lift the self-respect of the Black majority. However, low group or racial self-esteem cannot tell us how each of these Black Jamaicans feels about himself or herself because racial self-esteem falls within the RGO domain, in the same way that a person who eats Black, walks, talks, and acts Black (very Afrocentric) may have inner turmoil (self-hate) when his or her interior world is explored clinically. One cannot tell how a person feels about himself or herself by how he or she feels about his or her in-group. The studies of the 1960s and the 1970s that dealt with high school students’ evaluation of their self-worth did not realize that RGO and PI are not correlated. The studies assumed that the Black students had low self-worth because they stated that they had less status and importance than the brown students. These studies were not clear on whether the students were strategically recognizing the

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color and status distinctions that existed as a survival strategy or whether they accepted it or whether they internalized it. If they accepted it, some might have been expressing low racial/group selfesteem. Reflecting the preference for another color or racial group over the in-group does not tell us if the person has internalized the negatives about his or her in-group (self-hate) that are taught by the dominant out-groups. It also does not tell whether it is a case of miseducation about the achievements, culture, and history of the in-group. Black mothers in Jamaica who tell their children that their hair is “bad” and that White is better than Black are one of the primary sources of this miseducation. Therefore, a clear distinction needs to be made between the miseducation about the in-group and the internalization of the negative stereotypes about it. It is the latter case acting in that causes low self-esteem. Because low self-esteem has been ruled out as a causal factor for skin beaching, it is important to explore the reasons given in the participants’ self-reports. With the verbal backlash in Jamaica against the bleachers, some of them might not have given the true reasons why they bleach their faces. Interestingly, 8 of the 9 participants in the bleaching group gave reasons that indicated that they are “keeping up appearances.” In other words, they want to look beautiful. The other participant, a teenager, gave peer pressure as the reason. It is not surprising that the majority gave some beautyrelated reason. In a color-coded society in which the Anglo-Saxon features are the ideal standards of beauty, those who have been miseducated about their in-group’s concept of beauty will strive to look like the dominant out-group. Some of the letter writers to the newspaper editors were correct in their assumption that the bleaching phenomenon was related to the issue of beauty. This small convenience sample has not shown that people bleach for economic reasons, or because of self-hate, or low racial self-esteem. Further research using a larger sample is needed to determine the range of reasons for the bleaching phenomenon in Jamaica. Peer pressure is one reason that was not cited by those writing about the bleaching issue in the newspapers. However, it is a plausible explanation for a teenager to want to change his or her complexion. This is the critical period of identity development when he or

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she has to answer the questions, Who am I, and How do I fit into the adult world? In the search for answers, an adolescent can be easily influenced by his or her friends as he or she grapples with identity development. The other 5 high school students in the bleaching group could also be grappling with these critical identity questions. They may be easily influenced by what their peers and some adults are doing, bleaching for beauty. A related reason for bleaching is that some members of the opposite sex find it attractive. Therefore, the persons that keep up appearances as dictated by the so-called ideal standard of beauty will attract suitors who also subscribe to this ideal. As noted earlier, each person possesses several identities based on various RGOs. Race and color are just two of the categories that people use to construct their identity in Jamaica. The proponents of the self-hate thesis see identity from an Afrocentric perspective. Any Black person who takes on brownness or Whiteness, irrespective of the degree or the reasons, is viewed as rejecting Blackness. There is no sense that there is a plurality of Black identities or shades of Black. There are persons who are Black, and they recognize this fact. However, Blackness has less salience in the construction of their identities. In other words, they have a nominal Black identity. This does not necessarily mean that they are anti-Black or, for that matter, pro-White. They have been nominated or defined by others and placed in a category because of their physical characteristics. However, they have incorporated the values, norms, and symbols of other groups that transcend their physical characteristics or nominal category. Their self-affirmed identity is with the group or groups whose values, norms, and symbols they have incorporated. Some people that place little emphasis on their nominal identity category will affirm themselves based on their religion or profession or some other category that they give prominence and importance to in their lives. The Jamaican Whites, Chinese, and Indians that take on a Black identity are classic examples. It does not necessarily mean they hate their nominal status or themselves. In fact, they are not seen in the society as suffering from self-hate.

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One expects to find self-hate in a postcolonial color-coded society. However, not everyone will bear the marks of oppression. Some Jamaican Blacks use Whiteness or brownness (or parts thereof) strategically, not because they feel inferior but because they have incorporated all the values in a multiethnic society. These values and the related identities are integrated and used based on the situation. This switching is used to navigate the multicultural Jamaican landscape. So, in essence, there is no correct Black identity in Jamaica. Each Jamaican coauthors a life story with the environment. An integrated self is achieved after the crucial identity questions have been addressed. This leads to a range of Black identities. In the Creole Jamaican society, there is cross-fertilization of all the cultures. The Black identities reflect variations of this hybrid. These are the persons mentioned above who can effectively navigate the Jamaican cultural landscape. Some will reflect more Blackness than others such as those who take on an Afrocentric identity. These Afrocentric Jamaicans have affirmed themselves in their nominal identity category. Still, there are others who will reflect more Whiteness than Blackness. This is inevitable in a multiethnic society in which there is a constant struggle and accommodation between the different cultural segments. Those who suffer from self-hate have not addressed the questions, Who am I? and How do I fit into the adult world? They have not successfully integrated the life choices they made about the self in Jamaica. Their biographies of the self have been thwarted by inner conflicts. The society needs to respond caringly to help them reach optimal mental health. These persons should not be confused with those who have successfully constructed their variety of Black identity that gives meaning and purpose to their lives.

CONCLUSION

There is no association between self-hate and bleaching in the small convenience sample of the bleachers because none of them fall below the median. They have self-esteem comparable to the

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control group. Further research needs to be done to determine if this will hold in a larger representative sample. The advocates of the self-hate thesis in Jamaica and the researchers in the United States did not realize that RGO and PI are not correlated. You cannot tell how a person feels about himself or herself based on how he or she feels about the in-group. The results of this preliminary research indicate that wanting to look beautiful, wanting to attract members of the opposite sex, and peer pressure are some of the reasons for the bleaching phenomenon in Jamaica. With further research, I expect that other reasons will be uncovered. The debate about the bleaching issue indicates that there is a range of Black identities (shades of Black) in Jamaica, and there is no correct one. In a racialized society in which color distinctions are important, people will incorporate varying degrees of Whiteness/Blackness/brownness as they address the crucial identity questions to give meaning and purpose to their lives. People who construct their identities in this way should be distinguished from those people who fail to adequately address the crucial identity questions because of the lingering psychological scars of slavery. However, it is important to remember that self-hate created by trauma in the postslavery environment can also thwart optimal identity construction. The bleaching group certainly does not suffer from self-hate. However, they have been miseducated into believing that the only standard of beauty is the one defined by European ideals. This problem can be addressed by reeducation.

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Christopher A. D. Charles is a doctoral student in social and personality psychology at the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York. He is also a part time lecturer in political psychology at the University of the West Indies. His email is ccharles@gc.cuny.edu.

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