Colorism In The Black Community
A discussion on Colorism
As a black woman, I have been wanting to broach this topic for some time. However, because of the sensitivity of the topic, I was never really sure where I could voice my opinions. So before I start, I would like to say that I in no way mean this to be harmful or triggering to anyone. This is just a way for me to express what I feel. These are solely my opinions based on what I have seen and heard, and you should not take them as facts. I have no formal education on the topic and do not claim to. Honestly, it is hard to keep my thoughts to myself when I see this word being thrown around constantly. Thus, you have my discussion on it. If you enjoy this, please know that donations assist me a lot. It is not required, but very appreciated.
Origin of Colorism:
Let us first reflect on what the word colorism means and its origin. By definition, colorism is discrimination based on the shade and or color of your skin, typically against people of darker complexions. With that being said, skin color discrimination can happen to everyone no matter how light or dark you are. There is a broad history of how slavery influenced colorism in the world that we know today. However, even before the slave trade, colorism existed. Historians tell how Egyptians used colorism and how it played a part in the belief that black people were too inferior to be equal or better.
Now, while slavery might not have created colorism, it plays a big part in how our world views it today. Slavery did not just physically harm people of color; it was also detrimental to their psyche and mental health. While all colored people were seen as inferior to Caucasians, they were once again separated and pitted against each other. Children born from relations (not always willing) of Caucasians and Africans were often seen as better and not of the same flock of their darker-skinned brethren. They were named Mulattos and had more privilege than other slaves. For one, Mulattos did housework rather than working in the harsh conditions of the outside field. Mulattos were given a better chance at life when compared to other slaves. Some were given an education, an actual job, and even their freedom in some cases. It often caused them to have disdain for their counterparts and believed themselves to be better. Many of these slaves became loyal to their masters and the Caucasians as a whole. On the other side, field slaves resented the house slaves, and some even believed that life would be better if only they were born lighter. Sounds familiar?
Although slavery has been abolished for years, the impact of that colorism remains ever-present. This can be seen often from politics to celebrities, from even the people we see and speak to in our everyday life. My biggest issue, aside from colorists, of course, is the fact that people use the word colorism so easily without fully understanding what it means. It is constantly thrown around by people who want to use it for destructive reasons, such as to harm someone or to gain some form of sympathy. I have seen this happen so many times, and it bothers me because most of the time they do not even know what colorism truly feels like. So when you use this word with any truth behind it, it takes away from those who have genuinely suffered from this. Not only that, but I also believe that because colorism is so openly allowed, we do not often realize that it can trigger us to believe something or someone is a colorist when it is not. We see this happen a lot with triggering topics, such as obesity. When I was younger, I would often assume someone was talking about my weight and even got upset at the person. Not realizing that it was mostly in my head. However, I took it that way because sometimes society tells us that larger women are not pretty. Therefore, I took that knowledge and used it to judge people even when they did not deserve it. In this next example, I want to relay one of the stories that caused me to want to speak up on the topic of colorism.
On a comedy show, a young dark-skinned female rapper heard a joke that said she was ugly when compared to another female rapper who happened to be a light-skinned woman. The person who made the joke was not talking about her complexion, they were supposed to talk about each other comically and he believed calling her unattractive would be funny. However, because the world often tells us that lighter people are more appealing, she was triggered and believed he was calling her ugly because she was dark-skinned. She might not have realized it triggered her, but her actions show that she was. Now, this is not me saying there are not colorist men who might deem her unattractive because of her skin shade. This is an actual situation that happens, but when you are triggered, you might not be able to tell the difference. This is a deep-rooted feeling that, while not always verbalized, is just as serious as any other triggering topics.
Other Types of Colorism:
Some believe colorism can only happen if you are dark-skinned, but that is not true at all. Just as field slaves resented house slaves, there are many cases of dark-skinned people resenting and or judging light-skin people. Mixed children have struggled a lot, either for not being dark enough or not being light enough. I have spoken with people who relayed how their dark-skin counterparts assumed the worst of them before even getting to know them simply due to their complexion. I suppose in a way; this could be another trigger, them being bothered by what society thinks, and so they take it out on those who are lighter. This is just one example of how light-skin people are discriminated against. There are more and I will touch on those later in my posting.
Now with that said, just like there are people who misuse the word colorism, there are also people who may not even realize they are giving or receiving colorism. With colorism being so thoroughly implanted into colored communities, sometimes we do or say things that we do not realize are wrong and/or unhealthy to ourselves and others. For this next part of my post, I will be discussing quotes I have taken from others on the topic of colorism. For clarification, these quotes are from women of color ranging from various skin tones and ages.
Anonymous One: “I am told I am pretty to be dark, and it is mostly from people of my race.”
If someone tells you this, it is offensive. Your reaction is your own, but this is an example of colorism. It is a backhanded compliment, basically saying that being dark usually means you are unattractive. This kind of mentality is what some, not all, people want us to think about ourselves. They want us to believe we are not pretty if we do not look a certain way. While many people can relate to that, I feel like the black community has it worst because it is not just society saying these things. It is our black men and women with these beliefs.
Anonymous Two: “I was told that I was a colorist for my preference in lovers. I have never gone darker than myself.”
This is also a common problem. As mentioned, since many believe that lighter is better you will find stories of women wanting to have children with certain races or complexions to ensure that their children come out with lighter skin. This is not always coming from a place of hate; some just believe their children will have better opportunities this way. Which is not completely incorrect in some cases. People often judge your compatibility, your work ethic, and your intelligence based on how dark or light you are. It is not right, but it happens.
Anonymous Three: “I was told the only reason I continued to get promotions in my job was that I looked like a white person with a tan.”
This goes back to discrimination against people of a lighter complexion. This could be a true thing, as colorism plays a big part in the workplace. However, to assume that a light-skin woman got far because of her complexion is colorism. Especially if they did not consider that perhaps she worked hard for it. Even if it is said as a joke or they do not realize how harmful that comment is, it is still wrong. That is similar to saying a woman gets promoted at her job because she is a woman. It is unfair, and it does nothing but continues to divide people of color. We are only hurting ourselves if we say or think of these things.
Anonymous Four: “Our light-skin curly-haired brother was the favorite. This might not be true, but it is how I felt.”
This is an example of how colorism can be a trigger that causes us to believe in the worst of others. Even if there is some doubt, it only takes something small to light a flame that cannot easily be put out. No matter the age, people can have this feeling and not realize they are being triggered because the claws of society are deeply embedded into us.
Anonymous Five: “A man I had a child with told me a woman was more attractive than me because she was light-skin.”
This is one of the bigger topics you will find in the world, especially surrounding celebrities. There is a huge debate about black men not finding black women attractive or as attractive as lighter-skinned women. It goes half-and-half on this, there are plenty of cases where men are being colorist towards black women. However, there are just as many where women use this claim because they are triggered, hurt, or just wish to cause harm. It may not always be easy to tell when someone is being a colorist unless they blatantly say it like Anonymous Five’s quote. I try not to assume anything unless I for sure know. Calling someone a colorist is a little similar to calling someone a racist. It sticks to that person, true or not. Once it is believed about you, you can rarely get that stigma off. So I wish people were more careful about how easily they use that word. For men who are indeed colorists, I do not believe it is fully their fault. We are programmed to have an idea of what beauty is that does not belong to us. So they are taught at a young age what is beautiful and what is not.
At the end of the day, colorism is unfortunately here to stay just like racism is. I was going to say that if you go through life without experiencing it, then you are lucky. However, I feel like that shields people from things. Therefore, they may be oblivious to when they give or receive colorism. It is not always easy to be aware of these things, but knowing will help you more than being ignorant will. It will help you better educate the youth and yourself. Many people want the colored community to be divided, and this goes beyond colorism. Not realizing this will help them reach their goal faster than if they did it themselves. The best way to divide a community is to get into their mind and make them see each other as competition rather than partners. It does not matter what race, gender, or age you are. You must always remember to protect your mental health. The mind is a powerful thing, once destroyed we will truly become lesser.
I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. If I failed to mention something or got something wrong, please educate me. I love to learn and talk about serious topics. Thank you so very much for reading, if you enjoyed this I would absolutely appreciate any donations you can spare. If not, I still appreciate you taking time to read my thoughts.
Sincerely, Daisy Ray