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Colorism Within the Black Community

Welcome to another year of celebrating the excellence, progressions and spirits of Black people across the globe. For me, being Black means that it’s important to take a critical look at what’s going on in the world and how it affects the Black community. I’ve been doing my best to bring awareness to issues that don’t get enough spotlight, so it’s only right that I address colorism and how it has done severe damage on the Black community.

Colorism is defined as discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones, but that’s really just an educated way of saying light-skinned privilege. Yes, this article is about Black community colorism, but colorism is NOT just a black problem. It’s very much global and has been alive for hundreds of years. A perfect example of this is the Paper Bag test.  It was a colorist strategy used in slavery ages to compare and gauge Black privileges based on how light or dark you were. So basically, you’d get the short end of the stick if you were darker than that paper bag. If that sounds sad, let’s fast forward to today and witness how the negative effects of colorism have caused Black people to be the ones holding up the paper bag to each other.

We can find colorism literally anywhere in today’s media. A great example that comes to mind is when rapper, Kodak Black, explained how he doesn’t prefer dark-skinned women because they are too “gutter” and too tough.

First of all, smh. I mean, really.Source

Aside from what he said, the bigger issue is where the statement came from. There have been sources explaining that Kodak’s issue goes deeper than dark-skinned women, and I agree.

Young, dark-skinned boys and girls grow up being fed the idea that their light-skinned peers are more fashionable, favored and success-ridden. It’s upsetting to watch dark-skinned women be painted as the bad guys when speaking up against ignorant statements constantly being made by the men outside of AND inside of the Black community. So, keeping Kodak Black in mind, let me just say that his colorist comment had everything to do with the hatred he has learned to show towards his own complexion. This hatred has been kept alive with the help of European beauty standards, which translates in the Black community as being a “bad b*tch”. Love is love and there is no rule that says you have to date within your complexion, but it’s kind of hard to ignore the increase in Black men continuously choosing women that are at least four shades lighter than them or of some other ethnicity. Some of your favorite celebrities have fallen victim to this. 




He went on to explain that light-skinned women are more sensitive and easier to break down. So okay, it’s not like we haven’t heard anything like this be said before but STILL! Are we starting to see that being light-skinned is seen as easy but for some of the wrong reasons? There is a box for light-skinned black men and women too, and the label reads “submissive and easy to control”. No matter how you look at it, being Black and supporting the idea that light means manageable and dark means difficult is 1000 percent problematic.

Being a light-skinned Black woman is most of the time seen as an opportunity for a better life. If you are Black and light-skinned, you may have heard terms like redbone, foreign, bad, boujee or high yellow be thrown at you as a quick label. It’s cute until you realize the cold stares that you’ve earned from peers and others who appear to be darker than you. You may have also experienced being approached with questions to see how long your hair is, if your eye color is real, and whether or not your parents are fully black. A dark-skinned woman would not get the same acceptance thanks to the media and lack of representation. Too often there are moments of light-skinned Black women ignoring and erasing the validity of how dark-skinned Black women feel picked over and misjudged. It’s hurtful to see one Black woman call another Black woman a hater or ugly because of the imaginary box her complexion puts her in. We should work towards eliminating the dangerously deep-rooted idea that having lighter skin is the root of all things desirable.

We should hold ourselves accountable for calling out colorist acts against each other and actually listening to why Black people with darker complexions may feel so angry and forgotten. Is there no empathy for the dark-skinned men and women being turned away from people of non-color and people of their own communities? That said, we don’t really have control over what complexion we are born with, but we need to have more control over how we judge each other based on complexion. Instead of wasting time justifying why light skin is better than dark skin, what can we do, as a community, to make sure opinions like that no longer matter? Just some food for thought. 

Na'imah Bryant is a Senior at Georgia State University where she pursues studying Psychology. She aspires to set her career in Psychotherapy while continuing to blog about life. Aside from writing and psychology, she enjoys traveling, poetry, live music, art shows, and self-care Sundays. Check her out on Instagram @naimahamian.
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