Skin Whitening

There's this article about the FDA in Chicago finding lethal levels of mercury in skin bleaching creams.
I was aware that skin whitening is big business where I live, but was completely ignorant of the fact that it is just as big in the USA. I did not realize how easy it was for me to assume that westerners are more enlightened about skin color and that it isn't as big a problem for them as it is for us brown-skinned Filipinos.
On the other hand, such assumptions -- wrong as they are -- are all too common. Consider this statement from the same article:
"Lest anyone conclude that this desire to appear more European is only an affliction of African-Americans, here is an academic article about Asians having plastic surgery possibly to fit a western standard of beauty. In addition, a 2008 post from BlogHer CE Snigdhasen talks about the bias toward white skin among people in India."
I know for a fact that the bias for fair skin is not always associated with western standards of beauty. Many fair-skinned westerners actually prefer to tan, so the "standard" is not hard and fast. But in many Asian countries, fair skin is associated with elevated social status, affluence, and security. In cultures where daughters of rich families stay indoors instead of going out to labor under the sun, and where family status spell the difference between a good (financially secure husbands who seek wealthy brides for their dowries which also assure a secure and stable future for the women and their children) and lowly marriage, fair skin carries with it more than just shallow, surface aesthetic preference. Even in cities where tradition has died somewhat, the old mindsets are hard to change. Sometimes the preference for fair skin is a deep survival instinct.
It's easy to dismiss the desire for fair skin as longing to be western. It could arise from ignorance, as with me assuming there is not much demand for skin whiteners in the US. Or it could be the myopia of some who think that all the world revolves around the west: if Asians and Africans want to have fair skin, then it could only be because they want to appear more western, i.e., caucasian. More often, though, this preference is actually rooted in those people's cultural mindsets totally independent of western influence.
Sometimes our concepts of beauty are rooted in things we aren't even aware of.
Sometimes our concepts of beauty are just... concepts.