It is no secret that colorism exists. It is very prominent within our society whether it be television or social media.
Colorism is defined as the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. This definition is important because it highlights the prejudice which also exists within communities of color. For non people of color it may be shocking to hear that people of color may not be able to find safe spaces of like -minded people within their own communities however, this is a reality that most people of color have come to know for their whole lives. In the black community it is common for those with lighter skin to be considered more attractive than those who are darker than them. Those with darker skin may internalize these prejudices and feel as if they have to attain this idea unachievable standard of beauty. These thoughts can result in skin bleaching and other potentially irreversible manipulations.
And despite recent movements towards acceptance of darker skin such as #melaninpoppin and #flexinmycomplexion there is still a lack of appreciation for dark skinned people, especially women offline. It is easy to love someone when they are trending on instagram, but dark skinned black women are much more than a hashtag. Recently actresses Gabrielle Union discussed how the importance of discussing colorism with her step sons after she found out that they believed that attractive dark skinned women did not exist. Union is married to basketball star Dwayne Wade who has two sons and a nephew that also lives with him. She recently asked the young men to show her women who they considered attractive, “Literally, probably about 10 girls I looked at had the same light skin, curly hair, tiny waist, butt, boobs — it was the same girl over and over again,". After this realization she then asked the boys to show her “the most beautiful chocolate sister they’ve ever seen”. To which they answered there simply were none. A dark skinned woman herself Union was confused by this answer however saw it as an opportunity. In response to their comments Gabrielle Union then showed the boys images of models and actresses ranging in shades.
From these images the boys began to have a positive reaction however Union still noticed an issue “they have to have somebody else tell them that a chocolate woman is attractive for them to believe it”. Dark skin women exist in these boys lives everyday however it wasn’t until they saw them on social media that they found them attractive. Women do not have to be models to be deserving of love, they can be makeup free, and have ruly edges and still be beautiful.
Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell had a similar conversation with her daughter recently as well. However in this conversation the roles were reversed, on one of the latest episodes of “We’re The Campbell’s” Campbell’s eldest daughter Krista spoke openly to her mother about issues she faced as a dark skinned young woman. Krista began by describing herself as the chubby friend in her friend group and felt as if she did not receive as much attention as her friends from boys. She even described herself as ugly as a result of her skin color and detailed an instance where she was called “darkie” by classmates. Krista then went on to provide examples of colorism within their own family, she listed couples including her mother and father where the father was darker while the mother was lighter. Krista’s comments noticeably caught her mother off guard as she was unaware of the daily struggles her daughter faced.
It is important that we not only talk to our children about colorism, but encourage them to know that their skin is beautiful no matter what color it is. We must build them up with the confidence to know that they do not need the validation of others to be firm in their blackness.
Written By: Nah'Ja Washington
My name is Nah’Ja Washington and I am a Writing Arts and Advertising Major at Rowan University in Glassboro New Jersey. In my free time I love to write and watch a lot of drama filled tv.