Growing up as a kid, I always heard that there are 32 different shades of skin tones for black people. I have no idea if this is true, but there certainly are a variety of complexions from light to dark and everything in between, even in the same family.
While we do celebrate the beauty in our differences, there are still times where even we ourselves are our own worst enemy.
Colorism is discrimination within a racial or ethnic group based upon skin color. What I find interesting is that it mostly points to a preference toward lighter skin tones. I would say this is true, as society seems to prefer lighter skinned African Americans when it comes to art, business, politics, sports, or any facet of society. Even those who people say don’t “act that black” are seen as less intimidating and more acceptable.
But colorism doesn’t end there. It impacts both ends of the spectrum inside the black community.
I remember watching an episode of Black-ish called “Black Like Us” where the characters confronted their own trauma and bias in their multi-hued family. I held back tears as I thought about my own experience. Darker complected black people are always calling me white girl or saying I need to get some sun. While they laugh it off as jokes, there is no way that I would get away with making dark-skinned jokes at their expense; and people don’t realize how it can make you question who you are.
Light-skinned privilege is definitely a real thing though. I can certainly understand how those of us with more melanin can often feel overlooked, underrepresented, and even demeaned.
The work to see a change first starts from within. No one else will see us differently until we first see ourselves differently. Colorism may not have stemmed from us, but we can dismantle it.
Have you experienced colorism? How did it affect you?