“You’re pretty…for a dark-skinned woman.”
“OMG! A black woman with green eyes!”
“Wow, your hair is so nice and long – what are you mixed with?”
Colorism is a toxic ideal which has ingrained itself in many cultures throughout the world. Some may argue its relevance but, this conversation keeps rearing its ugly-as-all-get-out head.
Whether it’s Kodak Black and his preferences…
…or Hazel E’s Twitter meltdowns.
So, what is colorism?
Colorism is having prejudiced attitudes and/or discriminating against someone based on the shade or tone of their skin. People of different races may have the same skin tones. Cardi B is a black girl from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and she has the same skin tone as Rita Ora who is a white girl from Kosovo.Colorism is having prejudiced attitudes and/or discriminating against someone based on the shade or tone of their skin. People of different races may have the same skin tones. Click To Tweet
At the same time, people of the same race may have different skin tones. Beyoncé and Lupita are both gorgeous black women with different skin tones.
How did we end up with the idea of colorism in our society?
Colorism is experienced all the time across all races, cultures and continents. Whatever is closest to ‘whiteness’ – regardless of your race – is the best in society.
And, how the heck did we get to that messed up idea?
Let’s go waaaaay back.
Stemming back centuries, colonization by white Europeans created these ‘standards’ and societal norms. Anything close to straight hair, white skin, and light colored eyes was the most civilized, intelligent, beautiful, wealthy and powerful. There were rights and privileges strictly for whites and the closest you were to white, the better privileges you had.
Paper bag test, anyone?
C’mon somebody! The doll test?
This disgusting system of judging someone’s worth based on the color of their skin is still taken to its extremes today.
Bleaching creams are a multibillion-dollar industry. Our music videos and lyrics tell us that light is ‘in’ and dark is ‘out’. Celebrities we admire succumb to this form of internalized racism.Bleaching creams are a multibillion-dollar industry. Our music videos and lyrics tell us that light is ‘in’ and dark is ‘out’. Celebrities we admire succumb to this form of internalised racism. Click To Tweet
Is Lil’ Kim even recognizable these days?
But, it’s not limited to the entertainment industry – women with darker skin tones get longer prison sentences for the same crime. I repeat. For the same crime.
We go on dates with guys and are told we are pretty because we are light-skinned or we are pretty despite being dark-skinned. We are encouraged to get with someone lighter so our kids will be lighter. We get looked over for relationships because ‘light-skinned girls are too high maintenance’ or dark-skinned girls are ‘too ugly, bitter, and jaded’. Our young girls and women are being fed B.S. from other men and women about what they can do to not get ‘too dark’; “Stay out of the sun” or “use this ‘special’ cream”.
And, there is hurt on both sides.
“You have privileges that I will never have because you are light-skinned”.
“I was never black enough to hang with the black kids and have felt like an outcast my whole life”.
This internal battle within our own communities is something that needs to be discussed more and vilified as the harmful mindset which it is. Young women and men need to be re-taught what it means to have a lighter and darker skin tone. And that is…
People of all shades and tones are civilised, intelligent, beautiful, wealthy and powerful. And remember, you can only be accepted by other people if you learn to accept and love you for who you are. Focus on you, love you…first!
What do you think? Have you been affected by colorism? Let me know in the comments.