Colorism: Discrimination based on skin color, also known as colorism or shadeism, is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.
I won’t pretend that I don’t have some form of light skin privilege. That many black men have not placed me and other women who share my complexion on some form of imaginary pedestal solely based upon my complexion, hair type and features. While colorism affects almost every race in this country and others, its affect on the American black community specifically is as long standing and ugly as our inception into this country.
Recently, singer/songwriter Chris brown was criticized for song lyrics where he basically stated he only wanted to be with black women with nice hair, which confused and angered many people. While “nice hair” can mean just that in other communities, to the black community we all know what it means. Nice hair or good hair is typically referred to as a looser less kinky, hair type that is often deemed a less than black hair feature. Many celebrities such as lil duval, T.I and more weighed in on the conversation comparing it to women preferring taller men or financially stable men and casually referring to preferring women with a certain hair type or complexion as a preference, I find it hard to believe that they can not see or understand the difference.
In slavery, lighter skin black people, often a result of rape from slave masters, were treated better than darker skin slaves. While yes, they were still slaves, they had privileges such as living in nicer conditions, being allowed inside the slave master’s homes and were often pitted against darker skin slaves and viewed to be better simply because they bore a closer resemblance to whites. After slavery, African Americans only saw images of white people as the standard of beauty in American society. To be black was all the excuse a racist white person needed to abuse or kill a black person. Black people’s features were constantly made fun of or ridiculed as being less than favorable, cartoon like and even compared to animals. Lighter skin black people were considered to be more trustworthy, and often got more opportunities than their darker skin counterparts simply due to being lighter. As a means of survival many lighter skin black people would only marry other lighter complected blacks in hope of having fairer skin children whose lives would be a little simpler. This birthed colorist black clubs, organizations and many black people who were light enough, abandoning their blackness and living their lives as a white passing person.
Until recent history the media almost exclusively showcased white or fairer skin women as the picture of beauty. Fair skin, long, straight or loosely curled hair, and thin, European features were the images that have been constantly shown to us as beautiful while darker skin, kinkier hair and wider, rounder more African features have been deemed as less desirable unless in doses. To ignore this is to ignore our history in this country. To have a preference of lighter skin and looser hair over darker skin and tighter curls is to admit your own brainwashing and probable self-hatred. Light skin is not a preference, desiring lighter children is not a preference, staring at the top of newborn babies ears to see if they will get darker is not normal. Calling your looser textured child’s hair good while complaining about your child with kinkier hair is emotional abuse. All of these things that we so casually have passed off as preferences is just another form of historical brainwashing from the media.
Black women, men, children are beautiful, period. We come in all forms of blackness as does our beauty. We will never be the picture of what white society has deemed beautiful nor should we strive to be. While many of these claimed “preferences” are long standing in our community, that does not mean we have to continue these false narratives. Get rid of the idea that you need to be anything other than who and what you are to be beautiful and share that with the next black person you see whose crown may be a little crooked. It’s hard enough being black in America, let’s stop dividing and tearing black women down for simply being black.
I hope you find beauty in all of your blackness and help our brothers and sisters who struggle with colorism to do the same.