Racial discrimination is a prevalent and pervasive problem in the world. African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and other people of color (POC) are daily denied of access to equal resources and fair competition when it comes to jobs and schools, to name just a few. In spite of this pattern of exclusion and segregation, POC’s have made great progress in combating discrimination in the work place, education, and day-to-day opportunities. Nevertheless, hidden between the lines of racial discrimination is the subliminal message of the regularly disregarded and overlooked matter of colorism.
Colorism is the act of discrimination that highlights the given privileges of light-skinned POC over their dark-skinned counterparts of the same race (Hunter 2005). Colorism is concerned with the actual skin tone, as opposed to racial or ethnic identity. That is why it is inherently different than racism; you are not basing your judgement on race, instead, you are basing it on the complexion of their skin tone. It is inherently colorist to say that a lighter skin tone is better or more attractive because no matter how you frame it, the implication is there that ‘whiter’ skin tones are better than darker ones.
In fact, lighter-skinned POC enjoy substantial privileges. They earn considerably higher amounts of money, complete more years of education, live in more secure and better neighborhoods, and marry a person who is of a higher-status than darker-skinned people of the same race or ethnicity (Arce et al. 1987; Espino and Franz 2002). Even the GlutaMax ad contains subliminal message of injustice, using the statement ”Maputi lang, favorite na ni boss? Unfair ‘di ba?”, in the workplace due to colorism.
Many people are unaware of their preferences for lighter skin because that aesthetic is so deeply ingrained in our culture. In the USA, for example, they are bombarded with images of white and light skin and Anglo facial features, and as such, ads like the second image exists, where whitewashing is evidently used, even by a popular and commonly used household product; Dove.
Despite the fact that colorism affects both sexes, women experience discrimination more frequently based on their skin tone in particular ways. The complexion of your skin tone is a defining characteristic in the essence of beauty and beauty is an important resource and weapon for women. Beauty provides women with status that can lead to advances in employment, education, and even the marriage market. Our country, Philippines, is a prime example of the crossing point of the distinguished connection of internalized colonial values and the cult of the new global beauty trends. Like many other former Caucasian colonies, the Philippines’ contemporary culture idolizes American culture and white beauty (Rafael 2000). Caucasian countries export images of white excellence, beauty, and affluence, while brown and black individuals are illustrated as entertainers or criminals. As a result, skin-bleaching products are now widely used to gain opportunities that are not achievable otherwise. Some of the skin-bleaching creams go by many names: skin lighteners, skin whiteners, skin-toning creams, skin evening creams, skin-fading gels, etc. Essentially, they are products that applied to the face or body to achieve a ‘lighter’, ‘brighter’, or ‘fairer’ skin complexion. They are a multi-million industry marketed as beauty products available to both men and women to increase their beauty, by increasing their skin’s whiteness. This global trend is not just a phase; it is an idea that is ingrained by the influences all around us- our history, social circle, and media. The social and cultural messages that is translated through these advertisements that give significance and value to different skin tones are both deeply rooted in history and effectively contemporary. People of color with dark skin tones continue to pay a price for their color, and the light skinned continue to benefit from their association with whiteness.
The new global racism transcends national borders and infiltrates cultures and families all throughout the world. It draws on ideologies from colonialism to internalized racism based on world history of oppression and slavery. Images that are associated with Caucasians are likely to be valued and emulated more in the global market than their counterparts- darker skinned POC. This is the piece of the puzzle where colorism and racism are so hard to solve: the images supporting these ideas are seen everywhere and the rewards for a fairer complexion are real. Television, film, Internet, and print ads, as seen on the examples above, all feature lighter skinned women as not only the cultural ideal, but the cultural imperative that must be followed, as white and light-skinned people are rewarded accordingly. In conclusion, understanding what colorism is helps us better recognize how racism works in our modern-day society. Colorism will continue to prevail unless the idea of white racism is annulled both locally and globally. And with the help of these racist and colorist advertisements above, we are able to spark a conversation of ideologies ingrained within our minds and lay a foundation of awareness of social constructs that must be avoided to attain a world of equality to all colors.
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