Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Vocies: Colorism is a plague in the Black community

colorism.png

Colorism is an issue within the Black community and affects the way we relate with each other, as well as those outside of the community. It also affects other BIPOC, as colorism is a result of racism that prioritizes and presents Eurocentric standards of beauty, respectability and worth.

A belief that those with lighter skin are more preferable is the main idea around colorism. It was born from racism and white society’s gaze. As defined by Merriam-Webster, colorism is prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.

Within these communities, especially the Black community, colorism can go both ways. Rather than being seen as less beautiful, less desirable and less respectable than those on the receiving end of colorism with darker skin often are, those with lighter skin are seen as not Black enough and are ostracized from the community as a result.

We talked to Black IU students and they said they are aware. Here's what they had to say.

Name: Jamar Stewart

Year: Senior

Major: Political science

Have you ever had an experience with colorism? Tell me about it.

I’ve personally not had to go through colorism that concerned me, but I’ve seen my friend go through it. Someone who happened to be, of course, African American was speaking about how they hate light skins.

Do you think colorism affects all skin tones? Why or why not? Equally?

I think colorism affects all skin tones. However, I don’t know if I would say that it affects them equally. As those with darker skin aren’t able to blend in with the crowd, so to speak, as well in a country that’s majority Caucasion.

How does colorism affect the Black community?

Colorism stems as far back as slavery when slave owners would racially intermix with their slaves, non-consensually. Those children, a byproduct of rape, were favored by the slave owners and were allowed to work in the house. Fast forward and they are still favored. Closer able to assimilate in a place where white beauty is the standard they are seen as more attractive people. However, light skin [people] are seen to be feminine and weak.

How does colorism affect the perceptions of Black people and the Black community as a whole?

I think colorism, something influenced by white people, affects how we perceive ourselves. It creates a sense of self-loathing.

How do you think we can begin to heal from and eradicate colorism?

In order for us to heal, we have to stop allowing Caucasian people from influencing our beliefs of ourselves, the same people who have searched for every opportunity to prove their superiority to us. We must stop trying to adhere to white beauty standards and also try to reconnect to our roots and learn our history. Black people are the only people to come in every color, and we must learn to love ourselves as well as each other regardless of our shade.

Name: Nasir Wells

Year: Freshman

Major: Social work

Have you ever had an experience with colorism? Tell me about it.

Personally, even though I’ve known about colorism for a long time, I have not experienced colorism that I can identify now.

Do you think colorism affects all skin tones? Why or why not? Equally?

Colorism affects all skin tones differently. You can have privilege and oppression. Regarding colorism, typically people with darker skin tones are affected more than those of lighter complexion. This has to do with the preference toward having lighter or white skin.

How does colorism affect the Black community?

Colorism in the Black community builds on stereotypes, negative images, and they sustain towards darker skin. Darker skin people within the Black community (darker-skinned Black women specifically) are seen as unfavorable in the eyes of society.

How does colorism affect the perceptions of Black people and the Black community as a whole?

Colorism puts darker-skinned Black peoples in positions to prove their worth and beauty in our social spaces. They are often seen as ugly, ratchet, aggressive, and that negatively impacts them socially.

How do you think we can begin to heal from and eradicate colorism?

To dismantle colorism, we have to recognize where it came from and remove these negative ideas about Blackness from our community. Recognizing Black beauty is integral.

Name: DeDjreanna Thames

Year: Sophomore

Major:Theatre and drama

Have you ever had an experience with colorism? Tell me about it.

Yes. I grew up in a mostly Black neighborhood. I had girls jump me growing up because I was too light. I was told I didn’t belong because my skin wasn’t dark. I was picked on a lot because I was very light.

Do you think colorism affects all skin tones? Why or why not? Equally?

Yes because I have dark skin cousins who were told they weren’t beautiful enough because they were too dark. But then there is me who is light and was beat up for being too light.

How does colorism affect the Black community?

It affects the Black community because the world is already hurting and discriminating against [us] as is. It doesn’t help that we are putting each other against one another as well because we are too light and dark. Instead of fighting the fight against America together, we are fighting each other.

How do you think we can begin to heal from and eradicate colorism?

To end the stereotype that one who is lighter is prettier, or one is more Black, etc. We together need to accept each other.

I have personally experienced and witnessed colorism going both ways. Like Thames, I have light skin. I have been called an Oreo because I’m light and talk “white.” I’ve also witnessed my best friend be degraded because of her beautiful dark skin.

It is important to understand as Black people and BIPOC each within their own communities is that no matter how society has poisoned us with the idea that not all of us are desirable, or present some shades as more acceptable than others, we are still a community. We are still Black people, and for some white people that is a problem, regardless of our skin tone.

Continuing to judge each other among ourselves on the basis of skin tone feeds into the comparisons and stereotypes white society places on us. If we are fighting among ourselves, we cannot fight those who would oppress us.

We must come together and support each other instead of tearing each other down. We must embrace the true beauty of our culture and our identities. Only in our unity can we truly dismantle the systems of oppression we face.

Get stories like this in your inbox
Subscribe