Dear Complexion Cops:

While I understand that Michael Jackson going from little Black prince to Prince’s second cousin in the 1980s, to Elizabeth Taylor’s albino adoptee from 1991 and beyond may still haunt you and your eye sockets late into the night, you’ve got to know that not everyone is looking at a full bottle of Clorox and going, “If only…”

Last week, singer and cocoa butter devotee India Arie was the latest target in the nouveau Negro online game called “Guess Who’s Bleaching?!” Past contestants of this game include Beyoncé, Rihanna, Iman, Diana Ross , Tamar Braxton, and Lil’ Kim. Okay, I’ve already admitted there’s something fishy going on with Kimberly’s face, but even so, that run down proves just how much y’all try it.

As for India Arie, the singer took to Twitter to laugh off the theory, writing: "Personally speaking! I'm happy to say I have NOT BLEACHED my skin LOL! ROTF at the thought. 1. I wouldn't endanger my health that way 2. I'm so in love with myself I have no DESIRE to BLEACH myself. 3. The GLOW you see IS (magnificent) lighting 4. THE LIGHT you see, Well that's all ME!!"

India went on to encourage meaningful conversation about colorism in the community.

Now don’t get me wrong, Detective Color Blotches of the World, I do understand there is legitimate reason to worry about Black folks in America placing light-skinned hopes into a bleaching product they found next to tubs of shea butter and wave caps on clearance at the Black beauty supply stores owned by Koreans. I, too, have read of stories of people damaging their skin with these products in Jamaica. I recall the reports that one in three South Africans bleach their skin. I also winced at artists like Vybz Kartel who have bragged about flipping their skin tones into a color I usually call Dead-For-Three-Years-Red-Bone. I get that this is all in reaction to the big White boot footprint around the world (but that kind of mass confusion is another discussion for later), and I try to pray for the wearied, self-loathing colored.


For one, a lighter hue in a photograph shouldn’t automatically be attributed to skin bleaching. Maybe it’s bad foundation. We’ve all watched enough VH1 and Bravo at this point to know this. Of course there’s also the ever-present issue of lighting—not to be confused with lightening. I can look like 14 different shades of Black man depending on whose bulbs I’m standing under. And then there’s natural beauty’s arch nemesis, Adobe Photoshop, who will give someone a new nose, stomach, and calf muscle with the slightest click. Hell, the right graphic designer can transform KRS-One into Nicki Minaj. Magazine creative directors “smooth and brighten” skin all the time. Now when this is the case, there is blame to go around, but typically not with the artist directly. If you’re going to aim your gun at a target, why not do so in the right direction?

There are so many plausible explanations for this kind of thing—yet you pop cultural J. Edgar Hoover’s refuse to use your better senses. And that is what bothers me. I don’t care what the picture “looks” like, you think India Arie of all people is actually lightening her skin. I cannot stand you kooky, conspiracy loving online ex-communicated members of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine.

Y’all are the folks who think Janet Jackson’s baby is now a 34-year-old transgendered woman living in Freddie Jackson’s basement. The fools who swear up and down that Blue Ivy Carter was created in a lab one room over from where McDonalds came up with the recipe for Fish McBites. The ones responsible for celebrities getting calls from their crying grandma’s saying, “I didn’t cut off your late granddaddy’s conk for you to start bleaching yourself now.”

Cut it out already. If you want to find a more realistic Black-bashing conspiracy, turn on the news.

Michael Arceneaux is the author of the “The Weekly Read,” where on the surface the shade might make the culprit want to curse, but trust, it comes from a place of concern. Tweet him at @youngsinick.