Colorism is the discrimination based on skin color and or shade. It’s a type of form of prejudice that allows people to be treated differently based on the social aspects of skin color. Colorism within the black community goes overlooked because it’s simply not a threat to society. Little do persons know, it causes a threat to self-esteem and mental health to young children, teenagers and even adults. Those who suffer the most from colorism and self-esteem are teenagers. They’re at an age where they become self-conscious of their looks and male attraction begins to blossom. Colorism often deteriorates darker toned people; it’s amazing how the shade of a skin color can change someone’s life forever. Colorism should be fought with the same enthusiasm as racism.
- Social Media
- Movie Industry
Colorism within the black community dates back to slavery, for the lightermen/women were considered to be “house niggers” while the darker tones were outside in the fields. Is it safe to say the white man created color separation within the African-American society? Slave owners were more “nicer” to the indoor slaves because they were the offsprings’ of slave owners due to the raping of women. Slave owners usually did not want to claim or recognize their illegitimate children therefore, they were given special privileges instead. Within those special privileges of being lighter toned, being light skin was viewed as an asset to the slave community while darker skinned was a liability. This created an intimate tension within the black community as generations proceeded. From Churches to joining sororities, being a lighter tone was always more accepted than being dark. To create more tension and comparison in the black community; the brown paper bag test was used in the 1900’s in order to determine if a black person “passed” as being white or black. Those that had passed were still black but for their skin tone, they were able to live a life that only darker tone blacks could ever dream of.
More Information on the Origin of Colorist: Adams, Michael Vannoy- The Multicultural Imagination: Race, Color, and the Unconscious, 1996
As if being separated by society wasn’t enough in the black community. It suffers greatly in today’s dating life. Social media is the anchor for everything new and trending. Most black male athletes, actors and celebrities are married to white, foreign or simply light skinned women. The new generation spends hours on their TL (time line) scrolling through famous couples and comparing themselves to something that they know nothing about. As young men, they look up to these women on social media in hopes to find someone light skinned to have “cute babies” with. The new generation base their “love” off of looks and not personality. Everything is face value and colorism is a key factor. Looking on social media there’s hardly any brown/dark skinned women being glorified just as much as light skinned women. Being dark has become frowned upon and that’s something that shouldn’t exist. In January 2019, Nick Cannon had an interview with Vibe explaining why white woman are seen as a symbol of success. He noted that from a historical, standpoint black men were killed for interracial relations and now that it’s legal, black men tend to gravitate toward white women. This does not help with Black America having more of a desire to date black women for who they are and not as a status standpoint
The Hollywood industry does have colorism issues along with privileges for lighter women. The most uproar action the movie industry did was allowing actress Zoe Saldana play Nina Simone. Zoe Saldana is a light skinned woman and Nina Simone is dark. They painted Zoe Saldana complexion to try to mimic Nina Simone. Viewers were outraged and almost compared Zoe Saldana skin darkening to black face. Calling this in comparison to black face is a bit much for Zoe Saldana is considered a minority as well, she just has a lighter skin tone who was given the ultimate privilege of playing Nina Simone when there could have been many others that auditioned for the role that matches Nina Simone’s true color. This incident was a true definition of colorism because it shows that Hollywood only cares for the familiar and not foreign. Had they casted someone new to the industry with a darker skin toned they may have no made as much revenue had they casted Zoe or anyone else whose skin tone was lighter. Zendaya spoke out on Black Voices saying “I Am Hollywood’s Acceptable Version of a Black Girl.” She is telling the truth, she’s the poster child of “black women” in the industry. Zendaya isn’t even fully black herself. She is half white and black and gets more privileges than darker toned actresses. There is light-skin privilege that goes unspoken of because it’s Hollywood.
More Information on Colorism in Hollywood: Ahmed, Nawshaba- Film and Fabrication: How Hollywood Determines how we SEE Colorism: A Cultural Reading, 2012
Colorism not only divides the black community. It divides oneself. Growing up I’ve had darker tones friends and they would envy me for my complexion. I was so confused because they were beautiful girls, I actually envied them. I remember asking them why and their response was, “because you’re more accepted and attractive.” From then on, I grew conscious of colorism. Colorism leads to comparison, comparison leads to jealousy then self-hatred. Everyone is born with a purpose and it shouldn’t be based off their skin. No one should have a better privilege than the other but unfortunately that’s just how America was built upon. In order to change, we first must make changes within ourselves and accept how we are. There’s no physical way to change skin color naturally. Once self-acceptance is achieved, accepting others around us will become better and skin color will become invisible. It will be a hard change to be made locally, nationally and even globally but it’s something that needs to be done. Everyone is created uniquely and all should be praised accordingly. People should be viewed at by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
More Information on accepting oneself: Bennett, Rhonda- Momma, I Wanna be Light-skinned: My Journey to Acceptance, 2015
Ellen-Christine Harris (Ellen) is finally a senior at the beautiful Old Dominion University! She will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies on May 10th. She loves to write poems, listen to music, as well as having “me time.” You can say she’s a bit of an introvert but, she’s very fun once she’s out of her shell. Cooking is a hobby that she loves to do. It’s very therapeutic for her. She loves to look up and create new recipes to broaden her skills. She also braids hair as a “side hustle.” She taught herself how to braid at the age of four years old, since then she’s perfected her craft and built a clientele in the 757 and 804 areas. She’s always curious to learn new things with an open mind. She’s excited to see what this semester has in store!