Cultural Commentator

How Azealia Banks’ Skin Bleaching Highlights Institutionalized Racism

Cultural Commentator

How Azealia Banks’ Skin Bleaching Highlights Institutionalized Racism

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The oft offensiveproblematic Azealia Banks took to Facebook Live this weekend to record a 21-minute video defending her new skin bleaching hobby. She first publicly admitted to bleaching her skin last month on Twitter, when she posted her frustrations with colorism in the music industry, saying she was tired of seeing lighter-skinned women receive more opportunities.

This followed Lil Kim’s infamous Instagram post, where she looked noticeably lighter than before and received negative feedback from Black fans. Over the past few years, other Black celebrities like Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj have been accused of similar practice, although neither have ever admitted to it.

Adding to her growing list of her 2016 controversies, which includes beefing with 14-year-old Disney actress Skai Jackson and referring to Zayn Malik as a “curry scented bitch,” Banks has received significant backlash from fans for her anti-Black behavior.






Banks’ Facebook video opens with her discussing cultural assimilations that typically come with being Black in America, like Black men dressing a certain way to avoid criticisms or Black women choosing certain hairstyles to appeal to regulations created by higher institutions. All true. But the video takes a turn for the worse when Banks proceeds to compare skin bleaching to getting a nose job or wearing a weave by asking, “What’s the difference?”

The “difference” is that Banks has become a product of institutionalized racism. Although always viewed as outspoken, she at one point represented an unapologetic Black woman who fought against labels, like “bitter” and “angry,” both placed on Black women who speak out on issues they’ve faced. Over time, however, Banks has become increasingly anti-Black in both her words and actions—seemingly in response to rejection from peers.

Skin bleaching holds a deep meaning within the Black community because of the underlying issues surrounding colorism and the social advantages that having lighter skin promise. Colorism is not exclusive to the Black community (remember when Andre 3000 wore that jumpsuit?), considering the Oscar’s have an ongoing issue awarding anyone who isn’t white. Someone’s choice to get a nose job isn’t always reliant on racial issues and a Black woman’s decision to wear a weave (or any other protective hairstyle) is not equivalent to the self-hatred that occurs with lightening skin.

In Banks’ defense, conversations about the experience of Black women in America are often met with resistance and few truly understand what it entails. Even Queen Bey’s Lemonade received criticism simply for being an ode to powerful Black women. Media coverage oft leaves out dark-skinned men and women, ignoring the importance of representation and the greater social impact it can have.

At the end of the day, Banks has sadly lost against the institution set up against her. Moving forward, one could only hope society finds a more sensitive way to adjust and be more accepting to all cultures and people.