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Driving the genocidal machine was a “scientific” framework distinguishing the genetically superior “pure” from the inferior “impure.” Racial mixing was strictly forbidden and banned by the Nuremberg Laws, which were racial laws that regulated social interactions.The Nazi regime gave rise to the lexicon of “cleansing” and “purity” most clearly associated with whiteness in the Western world (despite the United States’ own shameful history of anti-miscegenation policy and its influence and funding of Nazi racial hygiene science).
This state-sponsored policy was a solution to the “Negro problem,” or the large Black/African-descendant populations in many Latin American states resulting from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Biologically, the whitening process was enacted through darker-skinned people marrying lighter-skinned people to produce lighter-skinned offspring, and the importance of whitening was messaged through social discourses and government policy.
Politics around racially “pure” populations inform all of the beauty and aesthetic-related aspects of our lives.
It would behoove us as consumers to interrogate deeply how they are messaged to us, what that messaging truly means, and how we both project and internalize it.
This ad is part of a long history of American soap products using visual transformations from stereotypical depictions of blackness to whiteness to signify effectiveness.
The fetish for orderly hair and unblemished complexion did not materialize out of nowhere.It owns Pond’s, Fair & Lovely (a product popular in Indian and Southeast Asian cosmetic markets), and the Filipino product Block & White, as well as the range of Vaseline and Dove’s whitening products.And beyond these familiar images exists whitening as deliberate state policy.Nigeria is one of the world’s largest markets for skin lightening products; Cameroonian pop star Dencia created her own “dark spot remover,” Whitenicious, in 2014, whose first run sold out in just 24 hours.Fair skin is a commodity in Thailand, with one company, Lactacyd, even marketing a lightening product to women that claims to “keep intimate parts fresh and young.” Unilever, a Netherlands-based company, is making billions of dollars every year through its near monopoly on the skin lightening market alone.The campaign’s success would be signaled by the eventual elimination of blackness and dark skin, leaving a population marked by the dominance and continued existence of “superior” European/white genes.The Cuban government, for example, invested millions of dollars in trying to coax white Spaniards to the island: Between 19, approximately 128,000 white Spaniards had moved there.In fact, the German skin care brand Nivea, which has come under fire for its own racist advertising and whose executive board cooperated with the Nazi regime during World War II, derives its brand name from the Latin word niveus meaning “snow white.” Whether snow whiteness alludes to the color of the creams or the color of the brand’s ideal consumer is more ambiguous, though the “white is purity” language within a yanked 2017 advertisement (with yet another apology for accidental racism) crystallized the potential meaning.The language of the Neutrogena advertisement becomes particularly alarming in a historical context in which “cleanse” and “purify” connote mass murder, involuntary sterilization, and colonial politics where human worth is assessed based on color and ethnic identity.You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.Recently, while I was scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled upon one of Neutrogena’s recent advertisements for a deep cleanser.