Division. It’s occurring everywhere. If you were to look at the status of our country, you’d see that there is some sort of battle. Battles with other countries, battles within the justice system, battle of the sexes and more. There is a divisive nature in us that stems from beliefs of being superior or believing something just because we are told to that prohibits us from trying to understand one another in a more logical and empathetic manner. Oftentimes you see people being judged by what they wear, the way they talk or with whom they tend to surround themselves. But in many communities there is an unspoken topic that goes far beyond simply “skin-deep”, and makes people feel unwanted, leaving serious emotional and psychological scars: Colorism.
Oxford Dictionary describes colorism as “the discrimination or prejudice against those with darker skin tones”. This discrimination is typically from people of the same ethnic or racial group. Skin color’s importance shows us how we measure ourselves, as humans. We’ve read about it in our history books and have even seen first-hand how color can determine if you will fit in, and how you’ll be treated once you are accepted into a group of people.
Those who are seen as white, or even those who can pass for white, are nearly universally preferred, while those with darker tones tend to be shunned or met with an untrue stereotype, i.e. darker-skinned women are not as pretty, they are angrier, unapproachable, and dangerous. On the other hand, light-skinned women are looked at as more “desirable” because of colonialism. Within specific ethnic communities, their true background is seen as ambiguous, and the perceived exotic nature of a woman (or man), can be the greatest motivator for sexual desire.
Regardless of tone, black is beautiful. I know this to be true, but why is it that those in the same ethnic group are the ones that tend to bring each other down when we should be celebrating our skin, no matter what color? How did colorism even start? What made it surface?
It all goes back to slavery. Slavery is the answer to many of the questions that we have now and where a lot of racial tensions and misunderstandings stem from. I look at slavery as a tree, and that tree has many branches that have yet to break off. Colorism is that long extended branch that continues to grow and cannot be cut down because we ignore it as an issue.
Back then, the slave-owners paid more mind to light-skinned workers because they resembled some of their white friends or family members. This caused more favor for those who were lighter, leaving them to be house slaves and away from the sun, while leaving those who were darker skinned to work out in the fields.
Slavery was just the beginning of colorism because even in the modern day, this measure of race is just as powerful as it was back then. This skin-rating system even affects employment opportunities, social statuses, economic stability, relationships, etc. It has also affected the minds of children and their perception on what they believe is beautiful.
For example, let’s think about the doll test. There have been experiments ( like the Clark Doll Experiment) done in which a child is provided two dolls: a black doll and a white doll. They’re then asked “which doll is the nicer doll?” “Which doll is the pretty doll and which doll is the ugly doll?” The youngsters generally point to the white doll as being the pretty doll because of her skin and blue eyes, and admonish the black doll for being ugly because of the color of her skin and eyes. But how would these children have learned these prejudices?
The greatest factor is our use of language and the actions we are using to influence them. Although we may not always overtly say if we like one tone over the other, our behaviors, attitudes and body language, can instantly make a dark-skinned man feel guilty, or a dark-skinned woman feel unloved.
Colorism has caused many disadvantages to those who are darker-skinned. It has caused a divide for people of color for ages, when these communities have always needed unity. It is ignorant to believe that we can change other communities if we fail to see such a serious issue in our own. Color, people of color, possess magic. There is nothing like it or like us, and for that, we must celebrate our brothers and sisters. Let’s experience the black excellence in all of us as a celebration, a party, a testament to our strong and everlasting spirit. Uplift and promote.