*If we were to recount all the ways racism has made our lives hard, we’ll be here all day furiously typing and compiling. For the purposes of this post, let’s take apart one of its toxic by-products – colorism. Any kind of difference in treatment based on the shade of skin falls under colorism, and the Black community faces this not just from non-Black folks but also within the community.
How is this coming from within the community? Have we drank some of the racist kool-aid and become the discriminators ourselves?
As a component of widespread racism, colorism means that lighter-skinned, long-haired Black people are considered more acceptable as members of society. This means unequal treatment in terms of more public recognition, better career progression, better access to healthcare and better education as compared to their darker brothers and sisters. The message this sends is that you can be Black but not too Black. This is the sort of thinking emanates from the field-slave/house-slave dynamics of our dark past.
On the other hand, light-skinned is used as a pejorative within the community. Light-skinned attitude means believing that one is too good to be part of the wider community; too high-maintenance and lost in one’s own self-importance. The same privilege that society affords them is used against them by their own folks.
Light-skinned women are treated as prime dating material and trophies for conquering while darker-skinned women are considered loyal and marriage-material. This tends to suggest that light-skinned women are objects and not trustworthy while darker women are homely and will stick to their men, because they don’t have many options. Both these descriptions are insulting to Black women and it’s sad that women tend to tear each other over this rather than taking the men to task.
Colorism affects Black men too. Light-skinned men’s invite to the cookout gets lost. They aren’t considered hood enough, not Black enough, not man enough. Even when Kevin Durant makes jokes about how he couldn’t believe that a light-skinned man like Stephen Curry could ball, it points to an underlying toxic ideology. What it ultimately does is alienate these Black men from the community. It’s time to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.
We don’t need to start a reverse brown paper bag test to prove our Blackness. Rather than limiting Blackness, we need to open up our minds to the possibility of what the Black community can be. As time goes by, we will see children who identify themselves as not only Black but also of another heritage. Instead of seeing it as a loss, we not to see what we will gain in terms of culture. Don’t forget that the first Black president Barack Obama was a light-skinned man who had a white mother. If you’re going to rep Obama, you better not hate on Black folks for not looking Black enough.
On the other hand, light-skinned Black folks need to understand the privilege they hold in a society that carries a disdain for Blackness. They need to find ways to elevate their darker brother and sisters and fight to get them fair treatment. When we don’t put up a united front, it sends the wrong message to other communities. They start to believe in it when we believe in it. Things are bad as is and we need to stick together without colorism messing it up.