Young, Black and Beautiful! #Colorism
Updated: Jul 21
Colorism is the discrimination, exclusion, or mistreatment of a person based on their shade of skin. It can also be known as “shadeism”. Colorism can actually go either way, although in most cases, lighter-toned people are favored over their darker-toned counterparts. It is the child of racism and carries many of racism’s similarities. So many people have been affected by colorism at least once in their lives, whether they recognize it or not.
Although colorism is a worldwide issue, it is very prevalent here in the United States. The concept was enhanced during slavery and has been a part of our everyday lives ever since. During slavery, slave owners would often rape their female slaves and impregnate them. That, in turn, produced a lighter-skinned child. Because that biracial child was actually related to the white family, they were given differential treatment which often entailed domestic work and less strenuous chores, while their darker family were assigned the field duties. This often created division between the slaves that we are still experiencing even today because that mindset was passed down from generation to generation.
After the slaves were freed even some Blacks participated in colorism, using tests such as the “brown paper bag test”. The bag would be placed against the skin of a person. If their skin tone was darker than the bag, they would be excluded from certain social circles or even employment. The idea that stemmed from certain whites was that the lighter a person is, the smarter they are. That concept has proven to be far from the truth. Colorism has often kept blacks divided amongst themselves. The great Alice Walker once stated,
“It’s an evil that must be stopped in order for African Americans to progress as a people”.
My experience with colorism has been slightly different when it comes to others within my race because of the fact that I have a medium skin tone. That has not been the same issue for a young lady named Tamara Scott, that I happen to have had the pleasure of speaking with on this issue.
Tamara has the most beautiful dark complexion that I’ve ever seen, but quite often others don’t make her feel that way.
Tamara is a 13-year-old girl, attending her last year of middle school. She began to develop problems at the early age of 11, which caused her to have insecurities. When asked about some of the first instances, her reply was, “people would say things like you’re blacker than my shoe or if I turn the light off I won’t be able to see you. That made me feel really sad. I have often been excluded by coaches and even teachers, all the lighter girls are chosen before me”. I then went on to ask her if she had the choice, would she choose to still be Black.
“I would want to be Black, but with a lighter tone. I just don’t like being picked on all the time. I just want to live a regular life.”
I knew, at this point, that I had to find a way to leave her with something very positive that she could take away from this discussion. So then I asked her what would she tell someone else that may be going through the same thing. She said,” I would tell them to not worry, hold their head up high and always remember that Black is beautiful”. I then told her to look at me.
I said,” Tamara, don’t worry about what they say. Hold your head up high and always remember that Black is beautiful.”
Even though colorism has been around for centuries, it can very well be eradicated. Educating others about the root of colorism so that it can be easier recognized is one way to get rid of it. Also, the phrase that we often tell our children is, “If you see something, say something”.
Stand up for ourselves, but also stand up for others. No matter how light or dark, we are all the shades that make up this beautiful race.
Story By: Tracy Lee Former- Editor in Chief for BLM-SC