There is this fabulous picture of Alicia Keys circulating right now; I’m surprised she hasn’t broke the internet. In the photograph she is recreating an iconic image from 1972 for the Jamaica tourist board where she poses in a wet orange t-shirt with Jamaica across the breast. We’re not going to talk about how in the original poster model Sintra Arunte-Bronte featured isn’t even Jamaican.
Oh ok so we’re not going to talk about colourism in Jamaica? Not going to speak on how skin bleaching is an epidemic? No one’s going to mention how brown skin/light skin/red skin fair skin is the highest standard of beauty in country that claims Out of Many One People as the motto on the national shield. How lighter skin is going to put you two steps ahead in life? Let’s not discuss or openly acknowledge that dispute a mistrust of White people and White supremacy, and how even with these skepticisms Black Jamaicans will enter into interracial relationships with hopes and sole purpose of having babies with “high colour”.
Dare we talk about how people from a tropical island are taught to hide from the sun? Hmm how about how Black Jamaicans are quick to list off their Coolie (Indian) heritage, Chinese, White or the other as source of pride over others who are just Black. Maybe later we’ll discuss how this beauty crisis is concentrated when we look to who has been chosen to represent Jamaica in beauty pageants for the greater part of Jamaica’s history.
How does Jamaica see herself? It is present day 2015. Jamaica just celebrated 53 years of independence. A photograph that represents the isle of wood and water has been “updated” it echos the original —some might even say rivals it. The standard of beauty from 1979 till now with the two photographs side by side is clear—clear skin that is.
Rebecca Akrasi-sarpong is a contributor for Omit Limitation living in Toronto.