Yasmin Alihbai-Brown: Why does self-hatred afflict so many non-white people?

The urge to lighten one's skin colour is a disturbing sign of 'ethnic' psychosis

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I stare at the mirror – at my age always a testing moment, as callous time etches and doodles relentlessly. But still, it is my face, uniquely mine, sometimes still able to attract the odd flirty bloke. I don't recoil from my own image. But apparently I should.

Definers of beauty have judged women of the East and South to be aesthetically and even biologically inferior to white females. Coloured skin, even today, is a curse unless it is a fake tan. Then there are those flat noses, or big fleshy ones; thick lips (considered gorgeous on Scarlett Johansson but not on Whoopi Goldberg); short necks and legs; apple and plum shapes. What a lot of uglies we are, so far removed from the perfect womanhood of Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.

Women the world over have been so brainwashed they now worship such golden goddesses, and some are so demented and/or stupid that they have themselves reconstructed, to become a little more like western lovelies.

And so rises a new army of plastic surgeons to make any race look more Caucasian, more gorgeous. Some even believe they are thereby creating a new "de-racialised" world. They have charts and measurements, percentages and figures to show our faces are more brutish and less pleasing than those of Caucasians. You can watch some of these creepy rich gits tomorrow on Bleach, Nip, Tuck: The White Beauty Myth on Channel 4. Watch and wail.

Here is Tahira, a naturally pretty Bangladeshi woman who hates her toffee-coloured skin because her own people have declared it horribly dark, especially when compared with the light colour of her husband. So she uses skin-lightening creams, most of which are known to cause untold damage, She pathetically says: "Michael Jackson, I love his colour. I mean, I just want to know what type of things he used to become that colour".

Glamour model Jet, who is of Caribbean origin, also hugely admires Jackson and wants to look like a Barbie doll. She has her nose and face fixed so she doesn't look like those pram-pushing black women who "don't want to move on with their lives". A young Asian bloke called Mun was viciously attacked by a white gang and so now goes through serial surgery to make his features as western as possible. He wants to show his racist attackers that he too can look like them and become a model. So there. He claims he is not denying his ethnic identity, but only wants to join the "mainstream". Darling boy, much deluded, expecting a second child. Hope the newborn has the good sense to be "mainstream". I know Muslim men who are going off to Pakistan to have operations to make them look less "Muslim" and to have their body hair eradicated.

In China, Japan and Korea thousands of women have eye-widening surgery and some are now opting for excruciating and dangerous leg extensions. Indian actresses once were all shapes and colours. Now top Bollywood female stars are pale and have green or light brown eyes (or contact lenses).

Why is this happening now when India, Brazil and China are set to be the big economic engines of the world? So much of the media is embracing the new world, and today's most popular TV programmes, especially reality shows, feature a cornucopia of racial types. Yet "ethnic" psychosis persists and is manifestly getting worse.

On Asian marriage sites or matchmaking newspaper adverts, third-generation British Asian men want "wheaten" brides. In black communities western features are craved, hair is straightened, skin lightened for reasons profoundly disturbing. Jet gets herself a pointy, long nose. Now, she says, she looks rich enough to shop in Waitrose.

Back in the 1960s the Black is Beautiful movement in the US spread across the world and made us proud to be who we were, even in Kampala, Uganda where I was growing up. I stopped ironing my hair to look like Jean Shrimpton's, and my African college room-mates went Afro. No more burnt hair in the sink and a new dawn, we thought. For a few decades, yes. Now comes globalisation spreading Starbucks and standardised western notions, and with it a surge in "ethnic" self-loathing and self-mutilation.

What is different now is the absence of any political and social fightback. Race is dispensable, can be wiped out if you can pay for the privilege. Then what? Do Jet and Mun really think they will be good enough for the BNP? When, oh, when will we stop being our own worst enemies?

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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