Article By: Joy
Black culture has normalized terms like "light skin" and "dark skin," when they do nothing but promote division between the black community. These terms and the toxic affects that come with it are often placated. There will always be prejudices when it comes to the way people see you, it's just a part of being black. However, the stereotypes the black community places on itself can be harmful as well. Colorism is, by definition, "prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group." In reality, it's more than that.
Colorism is no new concept, and the stigma that has followed black people due to the shade of their skin can be dated back centuries.
Slave owners gave privileges to slaves with a lighter complexion, allowing them to work inside and perform domestic tasks while their darker counterparts did grueling work outside in the fields. After slavery was abolished, those with dark skin received less opportunities, poorer education, and a lower income. Even though all black people were discriminated against when the Jim Crow laws were in effect (and even afterwards) certain employment opportunities were off limits to people with dark skin.Black aristocrats and sororities would use a method called the paper bag test to see if fellow African Americans were “light” enough to socialize with. A person would put a paper bag over their head, and if their skin tone was darker than the paper bag, you wouldn’t pass the test and, consequently, wouldn't be able to interact with the members
of the higher society.
Today, being a dark skinned black person continues to have its downfalls. Dark skinned models are scarce in the fashion industry, which is astonishing, considering how many elements of black culture designers love to use on their runway.(I'm looking at you, Marc Jacobs!) Movies like "12 Years A Slave" or "Selma" won multiple awards and were called "humanizing" and "powerful", which is exemplary. We need more movies that bring attention to the pain that has been our struggle for rights. On contrast, the small amount of modern movies that have black heroes or heroines either are not portrayed in a positive light, die, or have very poor reviews/ box office results. "After Earth,"a science fiction movie starring Jaden and Will Smith was called "boring" and "lifeless." A Triple X movie starring Ice Cube was seen as "less inspired" than the first movie, starring Vin Diesel. Movies featuring black history are praised, while movies portraying modern black people aren't as popular. Specifically, Leslie Jones received most of the hate out of the entire cast after starring in the blockbuster "Ghostbusters," prompting her to leave Twitter.
Even with all of the horrible tweets and messages she received,people were still justifying the atrocious attacks.
In the dating world, certain racial preferences cause light skinned people to find matches more quickly, while dark skinned women can be seen as angry and undesirable. In the conflict between Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj during the VMA's, Nicki was portrayed as confrontational and abrasive, and media outlets called her "nuts" and said that she "went off". Miley was seen as innocent, even though she had talked about Nicki to media inlets.
On the flip side, colorism affects light skinned black people in a negative way as well. Having light skin can make them feel alienated from their own race, as if they aren’t “black” enough or authentic enough. Light skinned men are seen as more effeminate and emotional than dark skinned men, and often more appealing. Light skinned women are seen as snobby and privileged. Social media memes just normalize the stereotypes that are seen as unextreme compared to the stereotypes portrayed against dark skinned black people.
In the end, colorism affects both ends of the spectrum. These toxic stereotypes are detrimental towards the black community as a whole. Education is key, and change won't happen overnight, but it is important to address the everyday things that taint our perception of others without us fully realizing it. It is also crucial to love yourself and the skin you're in, and to accept the skin tone you are, whether you're dark or light skinned. While we work on solving the prejudices that the world has placed on us, let’s simultaneously work on solving the prejudices in our own community.