Takara Allen, 22, shared a post on Facebook this week which revealed a message she received from her Tinder date recommending that she bleached her skin.
The make-up artist, who lives in Adelaide, Australia and who identifies as black, had only met with the man once before he sent her a message which read: “Don’t think I’m a creep and I don’t wanna be offensive or anything but I was just looking [at] your insta photos and just curious, but have you ever thought about bleaching your skin?? You’d look so much prettier if you were whiter!”
Allen was quick to respond, telling the man: “Have you ever considered drinking bleach because the world would be so much prettier if you did [peace]”
The skin-lightening industry is worth over £14 billion worldwide, and often preys on women’s insecurities regarding their skin tone. Colourism – discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, including by people from the same ethnic group – developed during colonialism, and means that in many cultures lighter-skinned women are regarded as being more attractive and desirable than darker women.
“It literally came out of nowhere to be honest,” Allen told gal-dem, “I wasn’t expecting the text at all, and the only thing that had been mentioned prior to that about my race was him telling me I was pretty for a black girl when I’d met him in person for a date.
“The date was a bit awkward. I was very passive aggressive about his ‘pretty for a black girl’ comment but this text was the tipping point.”
Having first moved over to Australia in 2003 when she was eight, Allen finally settled in Adelaide in 2011.
“Initially it was a huge culture shock coming from America,” she said. “But I was in Melbourne last weekend and I was so taken aback by how many people of colour there were. I was pretty upset by the text but I’m used to racism, living around so many white people. In Adelaide you only really see white people – unless you go to places where people of colour usually congregate; shisha lounges and places like that.”
Allen said dating in Adelaide was often difficult because there was “so much fetishisation”.
“I always get the ‘so pretty for a black girl’, ‘I’ve never been with a black girl before’, ‘I love black women’ comments. I haven’t had great experiences on Tinder as most guys on there are only after one thing, but there’s definitely been nothing like this before,” she said.
In a long post on Facebook which has been liked and commented on by dozens, she wrote: “As if people of colour don’t already struggle enough with the pressure to conform to a Eurocentric beauty ideals and standards, people like this add even more… I’ve grown up hearing ‘You’d be prettier if you were lighter’ and ‘You’re pretty for a black girl,’ as if black women are just generally unattractive, and so it’s a surprise when one of us is.”