The distinction of individuals based on the fairness of their complexion is a ridiculous and outdated mode of thought that, unfortunately, still exists within many minority communities today.
It is common within the black community to distinguish members based on whether they are dark or light-skinned. This distinction came to be during the days of slavery—light-skinned slaves were offspring of the white master and one of his serving women. The light-skinned slaves were shown preferential treatment. They were given easier roles such as being a kitchen maid or a delivery driver. To this day, the distinction between light and dark skin continues to be a source of resentment and tension within the black community.
Colorism affects us today in different ways than it did back then. Slavery is over, but the problems colorism causes still remain. Social media can provide a clear example of the colorism that still exists within our society. Typing “dark-skinned girls” into the search bar of Twitter will result in pages of comments from people of all races and genders. Not all of the comments are derogatory, but many of the statements that are offensive are written by other African-Americans. The mindset that dark skin is negative is something those inside and outside these communities should work together to abolish.
As a direct result of the mindset that lighter is better, some African-American males prefer to date women that are light-skinned or non-black altogether. Everyone is perfectly entitled to their individual preferences, however, it is worth noting many males go after women of certain colors to produce children that have “favorable characteristics” such as a lighter skin tone and eye color.
In addition, many of these males seem to have the mindset that black girls are nothing but attitude and trouble. In my own life, I have encountered many such black males who feel perfectly justified in bashing women for their skin color before even knowing them. They seemingly forget the women who raised him are oftentimes black as well. Regardless of color, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and decency and those who bash darker-skinned individuals should try to get to know them before casting judgment.
The color complex affects the black community, particularly its females, through the ideals of what is considered “good hair.” Many light-skinned girls tend to have wavy or easily manageable hair types, while darker girls often tend to have a thicker, more tightly coiled hair patterns. I personally have very thick and curly hair naturally. I recall with vivid detail the many times my afro-puffs or thick braids garnered the negative attention of my black classmates. The effortless wavy curls of my lighter counterparts were met with nothing but admiration.
Colorism does not only affect the African-American community. Skin-brightening creams and bleaching treatments are often marketed to Indian, Asian and Hispanic groups who want to lighten their complexions. In some cases, the excessive use of these creams and treatments can lead to serious and permanent health issues. The idea that someone is better because of the lightness of their skin is ridiculous. Many do not even realize they contribute to this system. The color complex is still ingrained in the psyche of many racial groups without much acknowledgement.
I encourage students to take a closer peek at the interactions around them and call out colorism any time they see it.