Colorism also known as shadeism is discrimination based on skin color in which people are treated differently. Formed from social stigmas attached to skin color. Colorism is a global issue in many cultures and countries. So you may ask yourself if this is such a global issue what has caused this? In America, south America, Africa, and even Asia, what could be so dynamic that many people feel as its their second nature to follow. Specifically, in our community the victims are people who are of darker skin complexion. Mainly Afro-Latinos/Latinas and African Americans. Two of the main causes of this can be traced back to slavery and many places of genocide. So who’s the culprit and is there even one at all?
The victims of colorism are the people who are darker compared to the other people in their race. In this case in American culture that would be light skin and dark skin African Americans. We also have a bigger picture of white people compared to black people. The Europeans enslaved the black people for hundreds of years and in this time were able to create this division between lighter and darker skinned African Americans. Separating them from each other by skin color, size of nose, behavior, and even hair texture. These actions were the birth of the house ‘Negro’ and the field ‘Negro’. The house slave was typically a lighter skin tone woman who was the end result of a master having relations with a female slave. The slaves who were born received better treatment. They slept in the big house, they received better meals and all around better treatment. This was because they had features that favored the Eurocentric attributes. Compared to the field slave who was treated much worse than and animal. Forced to work in the fields all day in the heat and much more atrocities. This invisible line that separated the two left a nasty mark on the relationship between the two. One that has never really gone away in the African American community.
Europeans caused this by going around and conquering nations and implementing their values, and instilling that they were the way to be. This mark on the world has caused division between many people of different and same race. April,6,1994 the Genocide of the Rwandan people began. Nearly 800,000 Rwandans died within three months. A feud between two different tribes, the Hutus and Tutsi. Created because of racial division. The reason for genocide was the Hutus for years had been oppressed by the Tutsi, their own people. Years leading up to the Rwandan genocide Belgium had went into Rwanda and ‘colonized’ it. They went in and created division between people who were for years civil. They divided them by once again creating and invisible line. Separating them from things such as size of their nose and color of skin. Putting the Tutsis, a minority in control over the Hutus the majority. Creating the bitter relationship that led up to the Rwandan Genocide. Colorism causes senseless disagreement and strife in tribes, countries, and communities. The racial war between them was so nonsensical that they had to wear badges to determine who was who. This shows that the color of their skin wasn’t enough to determine a big difference, because the thought that their skin color made them different was incredible. Though this is the truth, the Eurocentric ways still found a way to root themselves and create feud between these people. Just as they had hundreds of years ago.
The biggest factor of colorism in this day and age is the media. Social Media, TV, print media, and even video games. On social media we have these ‘trends’ stereotyping people based on their skin color. People laugh and brush off the actual problem at hand. They are also very easily impressed by what they see on their phones and tablets. Sublimely making them apart of the problem. On TV we have where dark skin women and men for example do not get as much recognition or opportunities. That they rightfully deserve all the time. Being placed second majority of the time. Being sidekicks, villains, or unimportant to the production. So what do you think this tells the audience? It tells them that darker skin is inferior and they are bad like everything else around them has been teaching them. If every outlet and education that their receiving is giving them this bad image of darker skin tones. Something like colorism subliminally infiltrates our communities and the minds of our youth. Affecting self-esteem, perceptions of beauty, economic opportunity, Education, and their general bias.
There was a psychological experiment created in the 1940s called the “Doll Test” in the U.S. The purpose was to test the severity of marginalization felt by African American children. The children were presented with two dolls placed in front of them. They were then asked to determine which doll was black and which one was white. They were then asked which doll was “ugly” and which doll was “pretty”, their answers is where things got weird. Majority of the kids said that the black doll was the ugly doll and the white doll was pretty. The next question was which doll is the bad one, and which is the good doll. The kids all said that the black doll was the bad doll, now why would they say that? When they are asked why they choose what they did the kids had no answers. They didn’t know exactly why they felt as if the black doll was the ugly and bad one. As adults and young adults we know, we know exactly why they feel this way. Colorism is like a virus that spreads just as fast as it’s caught in this case taught. In the past there has not been a lot of efforts shown to try to end colorism. This is due to the fact that people want ignore problems like this, it’s too close of a racial issue for some. They want to sweep it under the rug and act as if it’s a figment of societies imagination. Recently on the other hand TV shows and movies have tried to incorporate more black and darker skin complexion people as main characters. Personally I believe it’s just damage control, but nevertheless it still helps the movement. By giving little kids and other people who are affected by colorism someone who looks like them. Someone they can relate to, so they know that they are not unimportant or the outcast.
Colorism can change and or shape the way you feel about yourself. A study with 123 young African Americans between the ages of (11-19), showed that complexion is a factor to self-esteem. For instance, the fact that for some black women having lighter skin can mean a high self-esteem, and darker skin meaning they have lower self-esteem. One of the reasons because society has made lighter skin more favorable opposed to dark skin. So some dark skin girls and women believe that they have to change themselves and conform more to become of lighter favor. Statistics also show that 7 in 10 dark skinned girls (8-17) believe that they are either not good enough or don’t measure up in Appearance. For the women especially this can be a huge effect upon them. Being that as women they are already pressured by society about the way they look. Then you add in colorism, so they feel like they are not good enough as their skin tone.
Economic stability can be at risk for the African American due to colorism. Skin color can affect pay, success in your career, and job opportunities. Light skin males are preferred over dark skin males for higher paying jobs. Due to the fact that Eurocentric values have made lighter skin tones more approachable and ‘intelligent’. With women its very similar dark skin women are seen as aggressive non approachable and not as smart as the lighter tone. Due to all these backlashes of colorism people have turned to extreme measures. Such as editing photos to make them look lighter, snapchat filters, lighter foundation(makeup), and even skin bleaching. Skin bleaching in the black community has been a huge problem. In the islands, Africa, south Africa, and America. Effects of skin bleaching on the skin can cause skin cancer, mercury poisoning, and even permanent skin deterioration. Bleaching has become so popular in the last couple of years. Many people are bleaching their skin to look lighter without even thinking about the long term side effects.
Colorism can be stopped, despite the world and its many distractions. A child and even adults get their values from home and their parents. So if it can start at home and create women and men and young adults to for good end colorism. Teach the kids, the future that self-love is the best love. That it doesn’t matter what color they are still the same person with or without it. Though this can work misconception and misguidance can cause a problem for the solution. Most time people don’t have a clue what the truth is and believe everything. Such as living in some facade where you could ever make yourself believe that you are better or different than somebody else of the same race or color. Even though it may seem easy to say solving colorism is not going to be easy. Colorism is a stem to racism, which happens to also to be a comparison between different races. Years and years of strife and at the rate that our communities are going it seems like we are going to have many more years before we can even get close to saying that colorism is no longer an issue.