Colorism is defined as the prejudice or discrimination based on the relative lightness or darkness of one’s skin. Skin color has played a vital role in the concept of beauty for many different cultures and countries around the world. In the African American culture, skin color has been used as a tool of separation and preferential treatment. It dates back to a time were African American people were merely seen as objects instead of individuals.
Black people were enslaved for over 200 years, during which time, they were not even thought to be human, let alone beautiful. During the 18th and 19th century enslavement era, black female slaves were raped by their masters, producing mixed race, lighter hued children. Although they were not given the lavish lifestyle of full white bred individuals, lighter hued African American children were put above their darker hued relatives. The lighter complexion slaves were promoted to house slaves while the darker complexion slaves had to work out in the fields. Although white individuals in the past set the period for the tension between lighter hued and darker hued African Americans, they are not the ones to blame for its continuation. It can be noted that African Americans can be their own worst enemies when it comes to tearing one another apart.
In today’s society, colorism has its roots deeply embedded into the African American culture. Darker hued beauty is rarely embraced. There have been current developments that empower young black women, however, it is still too few and far between. From a young age, a lot of darker hued women expressed that they had been told as a child that their skin tone was not considered favorable in society therefore causing them to have self esteem issues, partake in self harm, consider suicide and take measures to lighten their skin through bleaching. Additionally, they had been told to help “improve the race”, which meant they needed to not marry black or marry someone of a lighter complexion than they were.
This issue is something that needs to be taken more seriously and not seen as taboo to speak about. It needs to be magnified across social media, the news and among black cultures that colorism is one issue that is tearing the African American community apart and in order to bring about change it has to start within the African American community. African Americans need to start embracing and empowering each other more and showing that all shades of blackness are beautiful. Those who are known public figures and have a platform should speak out more on the issue and use their publicity to bring awareness to the issue.
African Americans should raise the children in their home and their community to know that they are beautiful the way they are regardless of their skin tone. It starts at home and it should be embedded into children to pass along from generation to generation that black is beautiful. They are kings and queens that should embrace themselves and their culture.