This Black History Month (BHM), Can We Talk About The Effects of Colorism?
I’m a HUGE supporter of any excuse to celebrate the progression and advancement of racial minorities and women. So, of course, I’m thrilled to be celebrating Black History Month (BHM) because it’s a time where I feel the most motivated to educate others about the plight and progression of My Peoples. With that being said, I do realize that this entire month in the U.S. is dedicated to Black History, in which we honor the life and legacy of African American Civil Rights trailblazers. We commemorate this season as we continue to pursue the promising dream of racial unity within the U.S. and the world.
However, on this day, I’d like to be a little more open with you all as to showcase how a dark shadow of our colonial past continues to fuel racial hatred and colorism that continues to plague myself and other darker hued people of color. Since the historical periods of slavery, global colonialism, and “blanquemiento”, colorism has been a divisive form of discrimination that still exists in the subconscious of society that ultimately determines which people enablers define are (un)acceptable enough for marriage, economic/ educational opportunities, societal praise, etc. For those of you who aren’t aware, lighter skin or “fair” skin is highly regarded in many cultures as a result.
Personally, I have a hard time being vulnerable with others, let alone the Internet. And while I do still feel somewhat insecure about this topic, I feel an innate responsibility to prompt change through awareness. It is my hope that people will consider this prospective as a way to bring about progressive change for all people of color. We’ve come this far, but we have so much further to go.
I know a lot of people have seen the viral video clips featuring the Love & Hip Hop Miami reality star and music artist, Dana Danelys De Los Santos, who goes by the name “Amara La Negra”, being debased by some producer on the show. Later, she went on The Breakfast Club radio show as a guest where she was further mocked (seemingly) by Chalamagne da god and DJ Envy as she tried to educate them on the current challenges that darker skinned Afro-Latinas continue to face as it relates to media representation and employment opportunities in the Americas. From these, there’s been a lot backlash towards those guys who made such ignorant, offensive, and disrespectful comments towards her on social media. Also, earlier this month, Matthew Knowles claims that colorism influenced the success of his daughters, Beyoncé and Solange in an exclusive Ebony magazine interview. Amara La Negra is definitely not alone as I and many people of color still suffer from the effects of colorism.
As a young adult, I didn’t realize how I’m still emotionally affected by colorism until my wounds from childhood taunts were reopened through a casual exchange at work. I saw client, a medium toned Black man, welcome a new baby into our office. We were in a open, public work space. My job was to wait to assist this person, but every business procedure came to a screeching halt as he became awestruck by this incoming bundle of joy. Almost as soon as he spotted the two baby carriers, the man turned around and said, “The Lil Red one is cute!”. Mind you, there were two babies present in our office that day. These little infant boys were twins. One was of a lighter complexion while the other was noticeably darker. Here I am, as 20-something year old woman, feeling like I’d been betrayed and disrespected, yet again. I instantly recalled another vivid moment from my memory in my college cafeteria as male student asked about a new mother’s baby, and she exclaimed with great relief, “I’m glad he didn’t come out dark-skinned.” The other student responded in agreement just as proud as this mother. There I silently stood in the 21-century as very dark-skinned woman behind these two strangers, who were bonding over their relief that this new born was being shielded from the “curse” of dark skin.
To some, these were just harmless remarks made by non ill-intentioned people. To me, each was a slap in the face. After that day at work, I witnessed a viral Facebook video of a man interviewing British adolescents as to their dating preferences. Almost all of the replies were the same. The teenagers, most of which were minorities, all preferred to date people with light skin and loose curly hair, not to mention blond highlights. As I watched on, every answer drove the dagger a little bit further into my already fragile spirit. While there have been successful beauty campaigns highlighting the Lupita Nyong’os, María Burgesses, Duckies, etc. of the world, they quickly become fads–their “beautiful” skin forgotten, with te plethora of whitewashed follow-up campaigns. Euro-centric beauty standards still remain the ultimate global standard. People around the world continue bleach away their pigmentation, contour their way until their natural features are forgotten, and be forever cast in the backgrounds on major media platforms.
I can’t ever forget my grade school experience either. In middle school, I used to ride home on the school bus, praying that God would make me a little lighter by morning, so I would be accepted by my peers. In high school, I overheard a small group of boys discussing the possibilities of dating me when they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Y’all, I was clearly in the room when I heard these words, “She’d be cute if she was light-skinned.” Can you imagine how I felt at 14/ 15 y.o.a.? I barely loved myself, just to discover that no one else cared. I was called all kinds of objectifying, degrading names by classmates who would call themselves my friend today. At this point, I can’t even count how often I’ve heard, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl!”
I’m sure like myself, my mother, who was the darkest of all her siblings, and great grandmother before her, and my darker biracial great great grandfather, there are many people of color of all ages globally who experienced similar encounters with regards to their complexions.
I want you all to know that YOU Matter. YOU’RE Worthy of love and adoration. YOU are definitely Not Alone. You are more than a trivial MELANIN hashtag. Your darker skin is your God-given gift of protection, a sign of beauty, and the envy of those without.
If you have a friend or loved one who’s of a darker complexion, be sure your compliments are actually compliments and not cryptic shots at their self-image. Encourage these souls when they’re noticeably feeling insecure about their skin color.
Ultimately, before we can extend the Love of Christ to our neighbors or expect change in society, we’ve got to look inwardly and truly love ourselves fully. No one is inferior to another.
As for me, I find comfort in the realization that EVERYONE is literally brown. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And race is the figment of an oppressor’s imagination. As the old saying goes, “I am somebody, ’cause God don’t make no junk!”
Featured Photo 1 // @charlesanthonyphotography
Featured Photo 2 // VH1
Featured Photo 3 // AmanBhargava
I love this post. Thank you for shining light on an important subject. So proud of all you have done and continue to do.
Thanks Ms. Jennifer for your continuous support over the years! I don’t take it for granted.