In a phenomenon many experts believe was inevitable, millions of white people living in the United States of America are taking great pains to turn their skin as white as it can get. The As White as Possible movement (AWAP) has gained traction with mostly upper-middle and upper class whites, whites whom before were restricted to expressing their whiteness with grass-fed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, yoga, and insisting they’re racially colorblind.
“I felt like I wasn’t being as white as I could be,” said Veronica Mabelin, age 37. “I needed something more. When I first soaked my hands in rice water and I saw how much paler they got, I knew what I’d been missing all this time.” Mabelin heard about skin-whitening treatments from a friend. “She was more attractive and vibrant. It was like people bowed at her feet. I had to ask her what she was doing for her skin.” Mabelin experimented with other whitening techniques like bathing in water suffused with baking soda. The results have changed her sense of self. “Now, with my skin this much whiter—a full drop in shade from Snow to Baby Powder!—I feel how [my friend] feels. I feel like I own the world. But that’s not like, a race thing.”
Mabelin finished her interview early to make it to an appointment for full-body mole removal. “I don’t want anything on my skin that isn’t white. I don’t mean that as a race thing, either. I just want to be as white as I can be. People think I’m prettier the whiter I get and I feel like I owe it to myself.”
Other popular whiteness treatments include cosmetic skin creams like ‘Forever White’ and consistent attendance at ‘paling salons’. The typical paling salon is full of repurposed tanning beds that utilize anti-UV light to reverse the effects the sun has on skin. The beds also rain bleach-infused mists on customers to maximize the whitening results of each session. Paling salons are advertised with taglines like “How white can you get?” and unsubstantiated results-oriented data, e.g. “Two sessions are the equivalent of spending a full summer indoors!” The photographed models featured in the paling salon’s ads are almost as incredibly pale as the men and women on billboards in Latin America.
As with any movement, AWAP has its extremists. White people’s desire to have whiter skin gave way to hair bleaching (eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair) and contacts that render both the eye’s iris and pupil completely white. AWAP’s more extreme participants call themselves ‘bleachers’.
Jeffrey Rudder, 28, is a bleacher living in Astoria, Queens in New York City. Rudder said, “Melanin is my biggest problem. I’ve actually gotten more unsolicited job offers since I started wearing these whiterizing contacts. The cost was entirely worth it. Yeah, I needed Vitamin D supplements once I began avoiding the sun, but I feel great. I carry around pairs of sunglasses so that people can look at me without squinting.”
Rudder works as a travel consultant for a vacation agency. “The whiter I am, the more people like to be around me. Did I say people? I meant white people. They feel more comfortable around me because I remind them that being white is okay.” Rudder insisted on clarifying that bleachers are different than albinos. “Albinos are born that white. They’re the lucky ones. We bleachers are different. Being this white is a choice for us.”
When asked why AWAP has grown exponentially in the last few months, Rudder said, “With all these people of color gaining popularity in movies and TV and with the rappers being everywhere, white people needed to make a statement so we weren’t forgotten. Black people’s skin always gets compared to chocolate and coffee and caramel. I want my skin to be compared to something delicious too, like a potato or overcooked pasta. I’m proud to say being white is on the rise. I would go so far as to say that white is the new black.”
Rudder had closing remarks he wished to address to white people in general. “If you aren’t making yourself whiter, you aren’t with us bleachers or with AWAP at large. Our whiteness is a statement. White people who can’t afford the skin treatment we use to get whiter are proving they aren’t AWAP because they don’t have expendable income. White people with the starfish complexion need to step up. Get a bachelor’s degree, and then maybe a master’s. Get a high-paying job. Try going vegan and then break your vows for free-range beef. Argue with a Middle Easterner and say that you know what discrimination feels like, too. What are you doing with yourselves? White people without any money who think they can be white crack me up.”
Rudder, who was in the middle of bragging that the shade of his skin and hair was “Ghost White – #F8F8FF”, stood in front of Astoria Boulevard when a fleet of ten or more freshly painted white vans pulled up to the curb and parked behind him. Hearing only Rudder’s voice shouting, “If Sammy Sosa can do it, anybody can!” but unable to locate his physical person against the all-white backdrop, his interview came to an abrupt close.