Color-Struck Around The Globe

Sammy Sosa’s new vampire complexion is a jarring reminder that, from the Dominican Republic to Dakar to New Delhi, white is still right, yellow is still mellow and if you’re black, get back.

So what can we take away from Sammy Sosa? Well for starters, oddly enough, I think his willingness to come clean about using bleaching creams can only be a good thing. Part of the problem is that this is a trend that’s happened largely in silence for generations now. This could start an important dialogue about what hydroquinone actually does to your skin, about treating skin conditions that really do affect people of color and about the difficulty of finding makeup as a brown woman—even today. Maybe we’ll start talking honestly about our deeply rooted preferences and prejudices that make skin lightening a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide.

I remember the excitement I felt the first time I saw somebody who looked like me on TV. (I’m pretty sure he was playing a taxi cab driver, but it was still pretty thrilling.) Like it or not, Sammy’s a role model—and his decisions affect others in ways he might never imagine.

That doesn’t mean the man can’t lighten his skin if he wants. But I wish that, before his makeover, he would’ve considered this: As a baseball player of international renown, he had the power to hawk something a lot more powerful than a tube of hydroquinone cream—that is, the message to love thy brown self.

Shiwani Srivastava is a Seattle-based freelance writer covering South Asian American community issues and cultural trends.

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