Caribbean Journal of Psychology: Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2010

Article 2
Skin Bleaching in Jamaica: Self-Esteem, Racial Self-Esteem, and Black Identity Transactions

Christopher A. D. Charles
Monroe College, New York


This study examines the individual self-esteem (SE) and the racial self esteem (RSE) of Black Jamaicans who bleach their skin and the expression of the bleachers’ identity transactions in their interaction with other Black Jamaicans about skin bleaching. It was hypothesized that the bleachers will have comparable SE to the non-bleachers, but lower RSE. It was also hypothesized that the bleachers will use their racial identity to buffer the self against the Black Jamaicans who treat them badly, and conversely, to bond and bridge with those who treat them well because they are bleaching their skin. It was found that the bleachers had lower mean SE than the nonbleachers, but the two groups had comparable mean RSE. These results suggest that there is a negative relationship between SE and skin bleaching, and that bleachers have a basic Black worldview and identity, so their racial self-esteem is comparable to that of non-bleachers. The majority of the bleachers buffered in threatening interactions about skin bleaching, and they bridged and bonded in non-threatening interactions about skin bleaching. The skin bleachers’ racial identity served multiple functions in their identity transactions with other Blacks who spoke to them about skin bleaching.