The Serious Issue of Colorism within the Black Community in America

Colorism is an extremely large issue within the black community. It could be argued that it is as harmful as racism as it is from within. According to the Oxford dictionary, “Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” So instead of white versus black, the struggle is lightskin vs darkskin. Colorism is rooted in slavery and has caused harmful effects on the African american community. What is the true form of colorism? Many people would say that colorism is essentially rooted in internalized racism.

After years of growing up in an environment that is subconsciously racist, one may begin to internalize it. An example of this would be hanging around friends who casually remark about black girls, or more specifically dark skin girls, being ugly or being called a thug or more crime prone. These microaggressions usually go by unnoticed but have a mental impact in those hearing these comments.

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They may cause that person to harbor a self hate within themselves for being darker or doing everything they can not to be associated with these stereotypes. This also includes believing stereotypes within their race. So a black boy who says that all black girls are ghetto is suffering from internalized racism. Or someone who sells out their race in order to please “the white man,” is also most likely suffering as well. An example may be a black person not hiring someone else of color because they look, “urban,” and considering it a bad look.

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In the previous example, those people are called Uncle Toms. An uncle tom would often do anything to please the white man and separate him or herself from his race.

A critique of this person may be that, “they want to be white.” Internalized racism conceives colorism which is rooted in slavery. Colorism has been around as long as there have been black people in America. According to Sarah Webb of Colorism Healing.com, “Colorism is a manifestation of the idea that even if one isn’t white, her worth may be determined by how close she is to being white.” Why is this? Because of the separation of slaves in the field and house. Back in the 1800’s, slaves that were lighter were often treated better and allowed to be in the house to work. A part of this is because often times the lightskin slave is the child of the master. These illegitimate children were taught that because they were closer to white, they were a little bit better than their dark skin counterparts but still not as good as a white person. This mindset still carries on today that pit dark and light skinned african americans against each other. This is seen modernly in hashtags such as #teamlightskin, #teambrownskin, and #teamdarkskin. Today colorism has taken on a very different look, instead of lights in the house and darks in the field, we see lights in higher paying positions and darks paid less.

Especially among the younger generation, opinions on race are much more transparents because of access to social media. Before the rise of the internet, black women, and more specifically darkskinned women were insulted to their face. African americans were and are called derogatory terms such as coon, tar baby, and monkeys and women hear terms on top of those such as slut and whore. Insulting black women has become very popular. Many african american males have resorted to insulting dark skinned women ugly and disgusting as a whole and referring to light skinned women as ideal and foreign. Social media has allowed these harmful comments to reach a larger audience and therefore the rise in colorism. The rise of “teams” with similar skintones boasts that one or the other is better instead of all black women bonding over a similar cultural heritage. Not only is prevalent in social media, but also in visual media such as television where dark skinned characters are usually bad and light skinned good. Black people as a whole are underrepresented in mainstream media but, on top of that the representation that is seen is usually very bias. An example of this is almost any Tyler Perry movie.

The romantic storyline is usually along the lines of a struggling brown/light skinned african american woman who is a harmful relationship with a dark skinned man. Then as the move goes on, she learns to love herself a lightskinned man swoops in to save her. Even though this is not as drastic as some other examples, the dark man is consistently portrayed as a cheater, liar, and abusive while the light skinned man is portrayed as the good guy. This colorism within the media subconsciously leads on to believe that all dark skinned men are bad. Another example of this is in many crime television shows. The token black character on the show is most likely light skinned, such as Ice-T, and the criminals are often darker skinned males. This is an issue in fictional media but also the news. Although crime has gone down within the last ten years, the amount of crime shown on tv is on the rise and majority of these crimes have been allegedly committed by black men. This raises a fear in the larger community against dark skinned men being dangerous. This bias toward lighter skinned people in and outside of the african american community has cost many lives and families the opportunities they deserve. Because colorism is so abstract and often ignored, there are not many group out that look to rectify specifically that problem. One group that is seeking to do more research on it though is is the Intraracial Colorism Project.

They study and report the effects of colorism around the world such as in Latin America, the United States, and Asian countries. They then, “develop strategies to educate, enlighten and eventually eradicate colorism,” with that information. (The Intraracial Colorism project) To do this, they have shared information in various medias such as having a talk show, having written a play about colorism, and releasing a magazine. This organization was founded by Dr. Donnamaria Culbreth in 2009, and since then the organization has also established a national colorism survey and held a conference on eradicating colorism around the world. Their work has established more available information on the issue and also spread awareness. Colorism within the black community is more harmful because it comes from your own. The very people that one is supposed to bond over a shared history with is being insulting due to the hue of their skin. Stereotypes associated with light skins such as being stuck up and dark skins as being dangerous have harmful psychological impacts within the community. This form of racism has caused many children to grow up thinking that they are better or worse than one another when in the end, we are all black. Colorism is dividing the african american race when unity is what we need the most.

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The Serious Issue of Colorism within the Black Community in America. (2022, Sep 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-serious-issue-of-colorism-within-the-black-community-in-america-essay

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