The heavy cost of light skin
If "color consciousness" and the preference for lighter skin is present in Africa - what hope is there for the "racial divide" in America between Black and White to ever be settled?
Is it a folly to even try?
It seems that the better strategy is to assume that it will always be the case and make sure that you have an internal structure to support your own interests.
The use of bleaching creams to lighten complexions seems to have reached epidemic proportions in Mali, despite widespread education campaigns.
Women who refuse to bleach often find themselves regarded as second class citizens.
A woman who did not bleach her skin said she is often not offered a chair at baptisms, and is asked to make herself scarce when group photographs are taken at marriages.
A quick survey shows there are more than 100 bleaching products available on the market in the capital, Bamako.
Sold under brand names such as Marie-Claire or Diana, the products come from Morocco, Nigeria, the United States or Saudi Arabia.
Dermatologists estimate that more than half the women in Mali are now using these creams to lighten their skin. These products are costly and often cause pain and blemishes.
So why are so many women in Mali using them? The answer is simple, according to one Malian woman singer: The creams make her white, and impart a certain charm.
But Malian physician Dr Ali Gindo finds bleached skin anything but charming.
"They are just burning themselves," he says. "It's painful and it's awful."
Dr Gindo says bleaching can cause skin cancer and the poorest people are the most at risk, because the cheaper the product, the more dangerous it is.
But he says it is not just poor women are bleaching their skin.
"We have also people who are well educated like lawyers, writers or professors, or people on the TV - and this is a real problem because if people who are leaders of opinion bleach themselves, you can imagine how deep the problem is."
Many of the women who use these products told me they do so because Malian men prefer women with bleached skin.
But male musician Al Hassan Soumali disagrees.
"I don't think Malian men like bleached women," he says. "It's better for Malian women to change their minds."