COLORISM: ANOTHER FORM OF RACISM
HISTORY RACE & CHANGE
October 1, 2020
Colorism, as controversial as it is, is important to talk about. Why, you ask? Read on and find out about the effects of Colorism from students and statistics.
In order to be educated on this issue, you must first know the definition of this word. According to Dictionary.com, Colorism means, “Differential treatment based on skin color, especially favoritism towards those with a lighter skin tone and mistreatment or exclusion of those with darker skin tones, typically among those of the same racial group or ethnicity.”
But, sometimes Colorism can be the other way around. Meaning, it can come from others with darker skin tones judging someone based on their perceptions of a person who has a lighter complexion.
A student named Kylie Mosley, a junior Media major from Bridgeville, mentioned family encounters with this. “I have experienced it before, especially in my own family on my African American side. I just feel like because I’m biracial, people look at me and say ‘Oh you’re lighter so you have it easier.’ You know it’s more ideal to be a lighter shade…”
Another student who is biracial (Black and Korean) named Chyane Sims, a junior Pre Law major from Aliquippa said, “I have seen it going on in the Aliquippa school and seen people think that ‘oh, she’s cute for a black girl,’ or ‘oh he would be cuter if he was light skinned.’”
Just like Sims shared, other interviewers expressed instances and examples of Colorism.
Sydnei Jones, an (African american) sophomore from Pittsburgh, gave another example of this; “…if a dark skin guy were to say ‘Oh I don’t think that dark skin girl is hot just because she’s dark skinned.’ That would be Colorism because it’s kind of awkward because he’s also dark skinned. And it doesn’t really make any sense.”
Behaviors like in Jones’ example acknowledged how statements like this just roll off the tongue. In a way, this leads to racism being tolerated. Furthermore, these prejudices go hand in hand.
As Sims said, “I think if you’re racist you’re colorist and if you’re colorist you are gonna be tagged as a racist…for example, if people are saying ‘oh yes black lives matter they do indeed matter and if they discriminate against anyone that is a darker shade then they obviously don’t believe that black lives matter because you’re are deciding which black lives matter…”’
You cannot pick and choose to be educated and claim you think everyone deserves to be equal when you go against your own race, or discriminate against another race.
As a result, being Colorist can cause other minorities to have self esteem problems.
A girl who is Pakistani Iman Sajjad, a sophomore from Bridgeville, said, “[With] Colorism, people can’t do physical harm. In a way it’s more how you view it. With the mindset of Colorism, it doesn’t physically affect people, but mentally it can take a toll on you.”
It also does not help when beauty is only perceived to be one type of person. And the color of them is usually white, or even maybe a lighter minority.
Sajjad goes into detail of the concept White passing or White bias ingrained in the general public. “I can definitely say I have seen it even in shows that I like to watch. I don’t see many, but when I do, women of color are always on the lighter side, which I don’t have a problem with. I just wish we had more representation for darker skinned people. And I know in so many movie industries they promote skin lighteners. Even in my own culture a lot of people prefer lighter skin and a lot of girls and even guys are introduced to it from a young age and it effects how I think of skin color and how I view myself so I’ve had to learn that it doesn’t matter whether your skin is lighter or darker, you shouldn’t try to change what we naturally have and there’s nothing wrong with it it’s just as beautiful and it shouldn’t affect our standards of beauty, you know?”
Even though the concept of Colorism seems complex, children seem to have preferences and ideas viewing race, such as what is pretty and what is hideous between the majority and minority.
For Instance, in an article contributed to by Jill Bilante and Chuck Hadad for CNN informed us, “A black child says a white child is ugly because he’s white.”
That quote is from a racial bias study in 2010 with Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien as well as Margaret Beale Spencer, a CNN childhood development consultant.
Spencer explained the majority of the data’s results. “The tests showed that white children, as a whole, responded with a high rate of what researchers call ‘white bias,’ identifying the color of their own skin with positive attributes and darker skin with negative attributes. Spencer said even black children, as a whole, have some bias toward whiteness, but far less than white children.”
This statistic comes from the idea of the 1947 doll test that was conducted during the Brown v.s. Board of Education case, but this time Spencer uses animated pictures of children with multiple shades of skin colors.
She also mentioned in the CNN article, “All kids on the one hand are exposed to the stereotypes…What’s really significant here is that white children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than the African-American children.”
When people hold onto assumptions, it can conflict with how they treat other people. That is why it is important to realize if you have subconscious bias.
For example, in the article, “What’s Colorism,” by David Knight he restated a quote from a teacher named Jasper in a Sacramento school who is Asian American. “ Students say that the after school teachers, who happen to be black, prefer the lighter-skinned students…which is funny because some of our strongest students are dark-skinned.”
As one can read in that statement not everyone fits into one mold, just because you are African American does not mean everyone in that particular race is the same. So clearly this is why teaching children equality is just as important as is learning schooling subjects.
Without a doubt, Spencers reiterated, “this may be happening because parents of color in particular had the extra burden of helping to function as an interpretative wedge for their children. Parents have to reframe what children experience… and the fact that white children and families don’t have to engage in that level of parenting, I think, does suggest a level of entitlement. You can spend more time on spelling, math and reading, because you don’t have that extra task of basically reframing messages that children get from society.”
Obviously we cannot always rely on parents to educate their children saldy. But, just having the mind set that these issues happen to real people and even if you don’t experience Colorism or Racism personally there are ways to improve this problem. So you don’t accidently inflame or become a part of this cycle.
Sajjad informs readers, “I would like to tell society that it’s not just a Western problem it is a problem that is dealt all around the world and the biggest problem with this is how people don’t speak up against it and we all just follow it and are okay with it. And we don’t promote actresses and influencers with darker skin. And nobody speaks out against skin bleaching products or anything like that and the real way we can make a change is if everyone speaks out against it,we can’t just follow what society tells us to do…”
These types of request are basic decencency. Pointing out hypocrisy is easy to see. It’s more about the awareness of issues that may not be daily problems for you. As well as realizing how ridiculous being Colorist really sounds.
Jones wanted to remind us, “It doesn’t matter if I am as white as paper. I still have black in me I’m still black like I’m not any different than a person in Africa”
Tearing eachother down based on slight differences in skin tone makes the majority feel like they have a right to do this as well.
Mosley explained this concept, “ …so if you are talking to a white person [and] you’re biracial and you’re making fun of someone darker than you and they may see that and think it’s okay.”
In order to fight the root of Colorism, we have to find a place to start.
Kylie Mosley finished with, “ Honestly I feel like the only way we can get rid of Racism is by getting rid of Colorism first because that stems from racism and so whenever you have people that are the same race descrimnating against each other that would be something that you should solve before you try to solve the problem of people who are being racist towards other people.”