Despite the fact that it is 2017, colorism is still alive, especially for many people in the African diaspora. In recent news, BuzzFeed reported the bullying of 10-year old Kheris Rogers for her dark complexion and her family’s use of social media to combat such negativity. Individuals of all ages continue to be subjected to colorism because of its deep roots in black history and colonialism around the world. As a Nigerian-American woman, I often find that a good portion of small-talk between family and friends consists of anti-dark skin commentary (e.g. “My youngest son looks like me, but if only he wasn’t so dark” and “When we were younger your auntie was so fair, but now…”). Colorism has been engrained in the ideologies of so many cultures, echoing the success of European colonialism in subduing the minds of people of color all over the world.
I will say that I am happy to see that more and more people have been taking a stand against the mistreatment of dark skinned individuals. Social media has taken a prominent counterattack against many cases of colorism. Despite all this, many are still marginalized and attacked simply for having more melanin than the next person.
"Darkening-up" meant losing socioeconomic status. It would mean your children might be mistaken for poorer slaves or newly freed.🍵#Colorism
— Kim Love (@kimmaytube) March 30, 2017
don't tell Black children they are getting too dark this summer.
— Nah. (@race_jones) April 11, 2017
— Amethystt (@Amethystt) March 29, 2017
Well, enough is enough.
It is important to recognize that colorism will not be eliminated overnight, but here are 6 ways to help fight it:
6 WAYS TO COMBAT COLORISM
1. Understand Its Roots
Understanding why colorism exists and the divisive nature of its roots is a good way to solidify reasoning against it. In the U.S., the division of slaves by skin tone was meant to separate the “house slaves” from the “field slaves,” often determined by paternity (children of the master tended to be lighter toned). Moreover, there is evidence that the segregation of black people by color was more calculated and one of the ways to “control the slaves for at least 300 years” (The Willie Lynch Letter: The Making Of A Slave!). When we understand the real reasons why black people were indoctrinated with colorism ideologies, we can see that it has very little to do with beauty or superiority standards among slaves and very much to do with subduing and incarcerating the mind.
2. Promote Positivity in the Family
Colorism (along with racism) is taught through social interactions and cues. That being said, changing the mindsets and understanding of children is critical. Recently, I had to explain to one of my younger cousins that she should not fear getting darker when she wanted to play outside in the summer. What we tell our children concerning their complexions can define their perception of how the world should treat them for the rest of their lives. Sharing the beauty of melanin of all levels is key in building those positive mentalities.
Love cannot be stressed enough. For a man to tell a woman of the same complexion that she is less attractive because of her dark skin tone or for a lighter skinned woman to promote her beauty by tearing down a darker skinned woman illustrates insecurities within the self. Loving oneself and being confident in our natural beauty and abilities is a steppingstone to loving others as they present themselves. Colorism is rooted in divisiveness. It stands on the ideology that one slave is higher than another based on an uncontrollable attribute- even though they are both slaves. Break that foundation by looking passed skin tone as a justification for superiority and love yourself irrespective of others characteristics.
4. Give “Dark” a Positive Connotation
As mentioned previously, colorism brainwashing begins at an early age. We learn in school that light is good, dark is bad; daytime is comforting, nighttime is scary. I try to make myself aware of these relationships and mentally separate them from indoctrinated correlations to physical attributes concerning melanin.
5. Uplift & Celebrate All Shades of Melanin
Being anti-colorism is not an opportunity to tear down individuals of lighter complexion. Standing against colorism is recognizing that dark skinned individuals are often marginalized for their appearance and that there is a need to uplift and celebrate ALL skin tones. Fighting for better treatment of one group is by no means a divisive force but a uniting one.
6. Support Anti-Colorism Media
Kheris Rogers and her family utilized social media as an avenue to showcase the beauty of melanin. Supporting movements like these along with pages, channels, blogs, etc. that do not stand for colorism ideologies can make a difference for future generations. Unfortunately, there are still many forms of media promoting colorism (e.g. casting standards for movies and hip hop videos have been known to rank people of color based on skin tone). However, endorse media that is conscious of colorism’s effects and that is proud to celebrate all levels of melanin.
And never forget,
Image Source: Giphy