I saw colorism on full display a few weeks ago. We waited for the interviewer to call us into the interview room. The waiting room was full. The interviews were taking a while but every girl there needed that money. So we waited. Until two finely dressed gentlemen walked out of the interview room and cased the pavements on which we lined up. They started blatantly singling out a number of girls and taking them to where the other girls who were waiting for feedback were. I ignored it. Minutes later, another finely dressed gentleman came out, lined us up and singled out a few more girls. He sent the rest away. “Have a good day,” He said.
I doubt those girls had a good day. Seeing as they were there for an interview and they were not granted the opportunity to prove they could do the job. Instead, they went home because they were not a certain shade of black, the lighter shade.
Light skin vs Dark skin
#Light-skins is a topic that has trended for the better part of last year. On Facebook, twitter and Instagram, people are going on and on about the social favoritism and the bragging rights of the fair-skinned brothers and sisters. This is sending a message to our younger generation that there is a privilege that comes with being #Light-skinned. That light skin is beautiful and deserving of a lot of socioeconomic privileges and more so, undying love.
Dark Girls, The Documentary
A recent documentary directed by Bill Duke, “Dark Girls” where Black Girls Open up the conversation around colorism. It brings to light a kind of discrimination that is heavy in our society. The documentary features men trying, and failing miserably, to prove their prejudice. From weak arguments like,“I just prefer light-skinned women” .To“Dark women just look wrong next to me.”
Plantation society and slavery
Colorism is discrimination against people of your own community on the basis of color. It is a form of neo-racism, a slavery and plantation society legacy so profound that it has reached the motherland. Black people are discriminating against their own on the basis of their shade of black. The plantation society placed the white slave owners at the top of the social ladder. This followed by mixed race/lighter skinned –who were given lighter duties around the house, along with being the master’s plaything. The darker skinned black men and women placed at the bottom doing hard labor in the cotton fields.
Yes, the physical chains of slavery have been broken in the diaspora. However, a prison of self-hate and self discrimination goes on in the hearts of our people. An emotional bondage of being not light enough for certain privileges triggered by conversations such as #Light-skins. Comments such as “Your baby is light, is the father White or Asian?”or “I hope the baby comes out “Yellow”” or the very popular “You are pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” steer this ship further into deep-sea.
You just have to type Light skin into your Facebook or your Twitter and you will see colorism in action.
The conversation, fuss and relentless fight against colorist by feminists, bloggers and journalists may seem ridiculous until it hits home. Look at Nairobi’s River Road and the number of women selling skin lightening products. The fact that they have never gone out of business despite vastly vast, and ignored knowledge of the harmful side effects tells of the 77% percent of Nigerian women use skin lightening products.
The entertainment Industry
Dencia, a pop star of Cameroon descent recently launched her skin cream, Whitenicious and the product sold out within the first 24 hours. Despite criticism for the heavily photo-shopped and radically bleached skin on the advertisement for “Whitenicious”, as well as the broad daylight promotion of harmful bleaching, Whitenicious still sold out. This goes to show just how big the problem is with skin color.
Skin Lightened Black women on Popular Magazine covers
Even in the West, the problem with dark skin still thrives. Recently, Vanity Fair has come under fire for seemingly lightening Lupita Ny’ongo’s skin on the cover.
Multiple musicians and pop stars and even actresses that our children watch and “look up to “, Idolize, have lightened their skin. From Rihanna, whose Album shoes have sold out even before its release. To Beyonce who has been given the title “Queen Bee”. And even Kerry Washington, a darling of so many household given her role as Olivia Pope on the popular T.V show, “Scandal”. The list is endless.
A fuel for Racism and Discrimination
It goes to show we have a long way to go if we are still uncomfortable in our God given skin. That we cannot wear our Color with pride. As long as black people hate their dark skin, colorism will persist and racism will remain. We enslave ourselves all over again every time we applaud, support, encourage, or not discourage the discrimination of our people because of their shade of black.
Colorism in India
The problem is not just African-American or a result of slavery. Neo-Colonialism in India is still alive in the form of colorism. During the colonial era, Indians with lighter skin were given preference in terms of opportunity. This gave them an upper hand in advancing economically and so socially and politically. Lighter skin in India grew as an indicator of class. Moreover, there has been cases of women being rejected for an arranged marriage by their potential partners due to the color of their skin. Another way it manifests itself in the Indian milieu is through the obvious preference for light-skinned women in Bollywood and other powerful institutions like the media.
Even books send the message that light-skinned girls are the accepted face of society when spreading their messages.
Slavery is over but ‘Colorism’ persists | Toronto Star
Why the obsession with lighter skin?