colorism in black culture

Colorism is discrimination or prejudice of darker skin tones that exist among members belonging in the same ethnicity, and is a wound that still exists and perpetuates itself in social media, movies, and music. It’s no secret that slavery in America has dealt its share of trauma among Black Americans: economic depravity, de- facto segregation and Colorism. Understanding how Colorism creates division among the black community is important, and we must first call it out before it can be healed. Here are 5 ways it is destroying us:

1. Teaches Dark Skinned Girls, They’re Not Beautiful

A video went viral recently of a 4 -year- old little girl with beautiful dark skin and locs breaking down in tears, proclaiming “I’m ugly.” These sentiments are not uncommon in our community. As much as we enforce in our children they are beautiful if they cannot see themselves represented in society, the message will not register. We each have a responsibility to make space for underrepresented, and we need black media to enforce the narratives of dark skin beauty.

2. White Supremacy Prevails

Colorism is symbolic of the desire to be close to whiteness. When we take a peak into American history, as desegregation slowly spread after the Brown vs. Board of Education, black people integrated into the white job force for higher paying opportunites, which meant we were code-switching and relaxing our hair to become more palpable to white businesses. As time progressed the message of having a white job, living in white neighborhoods, studying at white universities, etc. was equated to success. Black people integrating is a long standing debate. One thing is certain, if we continue to measure are value based based on white standards, we will remain in a cycle of self-hate.

3. Perpetuates Competition and Division

The irony of it all is black people– we become our own enemies. Black women around the globe make efforts to bleach skin. Darker skinned women are more likely to be passed up for the promotion, they are often portrayed as obnoxious in films or the funny best friend. While lighter- skinned women are often the love interest. The sad truth is that black men continue to push this image forward. Hip-hop teaches us that lighter skin is more attractive and in 2020 continues to play out in our culture. The gatekeepers of our culture are those who tell the stories of us. We can change the narrative through holding the media accountable.

4. Encourages Texturism

We can’t discuss Colorism in black culture without mentioning its ugly cousin texturism. Mostly existing within the natural hair community, we’ve all heard it said before you’ve got “good hair” or your hair is “nappy” Chris rock narrated a documentary in 2009 titled, Good hair. The documentary highlights the many efforts black women must under go to maintain acceptable hair. Good hair historically is not defined as whether or not the hair is healthy or not but rather how curly, wavy is it. The tighter the curl the less acceptable. The natural hair community measure natural curls on a scale ranging from type 2 to 4 (2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b, 4c). The higher your hair falls on the scale the kinkier the curl.

5. Upholds Unhealthy Beauty Standards

Whether we realize it or not, the content we consume daily dictate our beliefs, desires and even what we internalize as beautiful. History tells us that beauty standards evolve based on the cultural climate. As black culture has continued to morph into popular culture, black women’s style, vernacular and body type have become the standard. The irony is pop culture has taken black beauty and sold it back to us– exaggerated and Europeanized. Bubble butts, thin noses , long colorful acrylic nails (we’ve been doing this since the 90s), light skin and long straight hair.

Black women often feel the pressure to alter our natural beauty to look more like society’s idea of how we should look.

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