The Other Side

32 Shades of Black

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?

The Other Side

An Open Door

In 2001, I was admitted to the University of Richmond (U of R), a predominantly white institution in Virgina. I was a smart kid in high school – an honor student and scholar-athlete – but my SAT scores were not quite to the requirements of UR. So how did I get in? Perhaps, Affirmative Action?

Affirmative Action, as we know it, goes back to the 1960s when workplaces and institutes of higher education were required to take “affirmative action” to ensure applicants and employees were treated equally, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin. In short, the idea was to solve for past generations of discrimination and segregation.

Recently, the Supreme Court struck down admission policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, effectively preventing colleges from considering race in admissions decisions.

But is it fair to other qualified applicants who feel I’m taking their spot if colleges have to fill a quota?

There are two types of people in the world – one who has a plethora of opportunities to choose from, and the other who is limited by their background and environment. One student may have access to more opportunities simply because of where they live, the programs available at their high school, or even who their parents are; while another student is limited by these very same things.

If a program or resource can help well-deserving students who just need a chance and a way to get their foot in the door, then so be it. It’s the idea of equity rather than equality. Equality gives everybody the same tools and resources. Equity accommodates for what the individual needs to set that person up for success.

Maybe we can agree that race shouldn’t be a factor in neither accepting nor denying applicants for college admissions or jobs. But the fact of the matter is “separate but equal” created these issues in higher education that we are still trying to solve for today.

Did you ever benefit from Affirmative Action? Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity because a quota filled your spot?

The Other Side

The Other Side

Everybody has an opinion. There are so many controversial topics that people argue about over the internet from behind their phone screens – from religion to politics to who is the GOAT. You can hardly go to the comments section without someone saying something that elicits an eye roll from you in real life. You try your hardest, but every now and then you find yourself caught up – going back and forth with a complete stranger, waiting anxiously for the next notification to craft a lengthy response with big words, thinly veiled insults, and a condescending tone. Hours later, you’ve wasted a lot of time and neither side sees anything differently. There are a lot of people talking loudly, but not a lot of people listening.

What would happen if we all took the time to listen? What if instead of planning our next reply, we actually heard each other, asked questions, and listened to understand? Could there possibly be another perspective that we haven’t considered? At the end of the day, we still may not agree, but we can better understand one another when we see things from the other side.

This is the start of a conversation where we will take a look at hot topics in hopes of seeing something we’ve never seen before and understanding one another better in the process.

Have you ever got caught up in a social media argument?