Many years ago I read Malcolm X’s essay about conking his hair. That’s the painful process in which black men “relaxed” their hair to make it look more like white men’s hair. This was essentially pouring hot lye on your head every time you got your hair cut. Malcolm X said black men and women did this because they had lost their identity. They wanted to look white but in actuality they only made themselves look foolish. It was one of the first real insights of my life. I know it sounds stupid but I’d never thought of it in those terms before.

Vaseline was part of that essay. You need to coat your head so the chemicals don’t burn your head. I remember looking at the jar that was in the medicine cabinet in a whole new way. Who knew that Vaseline was part of all that? Well the Anglo-Dutch skincare group Vaseline is back at it. They’ve launched a new application on facebook “Transform Your Face on Facebook” to promote Vaselines range of skin lightening products for men. It’s an app to make your face look whiter.

They actually used the term “pigment-o-cracy” in a press release. It’s marketed mostly at South Asia; the market for skin lightening products in India is about 500 million dollars. If you think that the gay handkerchief code is complicated, try the lexicon for paleness in Indian matrimonial advertisements. Am I wheaten or dusky or very fair? I remember dropping a friend who mentioned a pledge had been dropped from his frat because he failed the bag test. That was if you were darker than a brown paper shopping bag you were too black.

Malcolm X is disgusted.