Breaking the Cycle of Colorism: You Gotta Start Somewhere...

Breaking the Cycle of Colorism: You Gotta Start Somewhere...

  The issue of colorism in the black community, weaves a complex and deeply rooted pattern. It's a reality that is still very prevalent. While it's an uncomfortable subject for many, it's essential to open a dialogue about it. Recently, colorism took center stage during an episode of the Love and Hip Atlanta franchise when Erica Mena, a lighter-complected Latino, directed a racial slur at Spice, a dark-skinned Jamaican cast member. This incident triggered a wave of opinions and discussions on social media, exposing the raw nerve that colorism remains in our community.

So why am I bringing up this very negative occurrence? The incident involving Erica Mena and Spice serves as a stark reminder of the prevalence of colorism in the Black community. It's a topic that we must acknowledge and discuss openly. Rather than allowing it to surface only during moments of outrage or celebrity influence, it should be a consistent subject of rational and empathetic conversation. This is a space where we can delve into the root causes, affirm its existence as an issue, and determine the steps we need to take individually and collectively to dismantle the effects and presence of colorism.




The Definition:

Let's start by defining colorism. By definition, colorism is "prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group."  It's a form of discrimination or bias that places value on individuals based on the lightness or darkness of their skin. 


Colorism vs Bullying:

Now I've seen interviews and even panel discussions where a light-skinned woman has said "I've experienced colorism too." Now as we see in the aforementioned text (it's all about education), colorism by definitely is bias or discrimination again a dark-skin individual. Now unfortunately, bullying is something that is very prevalent and requires discussion. However, we must be clear when discussing colorism. THIS type of bias is inherent to darker-complected individuals.


The Historical Roots:

Colorism in the Black community can be traced back to a history marked by slavery, colonialism, and the legacy of white supremacy. Lighter-skinned slaves were often favored and given privileges, creating a hierarchy based on skin tone. This legacy continues to impact our community today when preferential treatment is given to lighter-skinned individuals. 


Division Within the Community:

So here we are today, and colorism STILL creates division within the black community. The notion that lighter-skinned individuals are more beautiful or valuable, while darker-skinned individuals are less desirable is still perpetuated by many. The impact of lighter skin being celebrated and recognized as the beauty standard, leads to underrepresentation and misrepresentation of darker-skinned individuals. Yes, this occurs in society to as a whole, but we MUST recognize and deal with this as an issue WITHIN our community as well.




 "Pretty to be Darkskin:" 

The phrase "pretty to be darkskin" is a powerful reminder of the enduring impact of colorism on the black community, especially Black women.. This is a phrase that most black people have heard even if it wasn't directed to them. Some of you reading this, may have actually used this phrase before in speaking to someone else. As a dark-skinned woman this phrase is something I heard and received as a child. What's most surprising, I've even had this phrase said to me as an adult, AND I've heard other adults use this phrase when speaking to or about, darker-skinned individuals. The ignorance of this phrase irritates me to my core because when spoken to me, it was always intended as a compliment. This phrase encapsulates the harmful notion that dark skin, in and of itself, is not considered beautiful. It implies that a dark-skinned person's beauty should be exceptional or "surprising" because it deviates from the prevailing beauty standards, which often favor lighter skin tones. The use of this phrase perpetuates the damaging hierarchy of skin tones and fuels the idea that light skin is the ideal while darker skin is less attractive. 


The Mental Impact of Colorism:

The subject of colorism is very personal to me, so I can definitely speak to the mental health affects of being told by "your people" that "you are not enough." If you've encountered this type of discrimination, I'm sure you can speak to the various impacts. Just to name a few.... 

 - Low Self-Esteem > Dark-skinned individuals may internalize negative stereotypes, leading to lower self-esteem and self-worth.

- Mental Health Challenges >  The psychological toll of colorism can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

- Societal Opportunities > Colorism can affect access to educational and job opportunities, impacting socioeconomic status.




Okayyy... so what now? 

Consider this a call to action. Addressing colorism within our community requires both individual and collective action. It's crucial to recognize the harmful stereotypes and biases we may hold and actively work to unlearn them. Challenging Colorism in our community will require an individual AND collective effort. We can break down the barriers that colorism creates by acknowledging its existence, educating ourselves and others. Here are some practical ways we can all apply as we leave this space with an intention to break the cycle of colorism:


CELEBRATE ALL SHADES One of the most powerful ways to combat colorism is to celebrate the beauty and diversity of all skin tones within the Black community.


PROMOTE REPRESENTATION By uplifting darker-skinned individuals and celebrating their achievements, we can challenge the status quo. Representation matters in all areas of life. Encourage diverse representation of skin tones in media, fashion, and beauty industries.


SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVES Educational programs that teach about colorism and its historical roots can be invaluable in promoting understanding and empathy within the Black community. Schools, organizations, and communities can play a role in fostering these important conversations.




TALK ABOUT IT Open dialogue creates safe spaces for discussing colorism and fostering understanding and empathy. Encourage open and respectful conversations about colorism within families, communities, and online spaces. Share guidance on how to approach these conversations effectively, especially if you've been affected by colorism personally. Be intentional about promoting self-love and empowerment as part of these conversations. 


By addressing colorism openly, we can pave the way for a more inclusive, equitable, loving space that recognizes the inherent beauty, richness and diversity of our Melanin Made Community. 


 Not Pretty to be Darkskin Tee


Have any thoughts or feedback on this subject? We would LOVE to hear from you! Leave your comments below and join the conversation. 














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