Skin Bleaching and the Self-Hate Polemic

25 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2017

Date Written: December 26, 2013


The popular explanation for skin bleaching among Black Jamaicans is self-hate. The concept of complex personhood debunks the psychopathology explanation of skin bleaching. Complex personhood is an autonomous, multidimensional, nuanced and optimal self that displays strength, weakness, resilience, ambiguities and contradictions. Some of the skin bleaching literature frames the skin bleachers as self-hating, restricts identity to a binary, argues erroneously that there is only one way to be black and silences the skin bleachers in public discourse. The self-hate explanation for skin bleaching in Jamaica is informed by the doll study in America which confounds the minority of Black children’s choice of a white doll with self-hate. The self-esteem studies in Jamaica and America refutes the self-hate thesis. The use of complex personhood to understand the behavior of the Jamaican skin bleachers liberates them from the self-hate explanation for their behavior and provides the alternative explanations of miseducation and colorism.

Suggested Citation

Charles, Christopher, Skin Bleaching and the Self-Hate Polemic (December 26, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Charles (Contact Author)

University of the West Indies ( email )

Kingston 7
Mona, Mona Kingston 7

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