colorism, noun: discrimination against a person of color due to the european standard of beauty (e.g., light skin, thin lips, loosely coiled hair). this condition is most frequently present between those of the same race.
people of color around the world grapple with colorism as a harmful by-product of racism. the mere fact that black folks categorize each other by hue reeks of the internalized oppression that teaches people of color that the lighter among us are the most attractive and that features which resemble our native ancestry are undesirable. according to clutch magazine, oprah’s own network may be tackling the light skin versus dark skin debate once again with a new documentary by bill duke entitled light girls. after watching dark girls last year, i think it’s time a more nuanced perspective is added to this discussion– we have the tendency to invalidate the experiences of those whose features fit more squarely within the european standard of beauty.
it wasn’t until a conversation about this topic among black women a few years ago that i realized light skin sisters didn’t have it “easier.” one of the women shared stories about being taunted and bullied by classmates and another spoke about feeling isolated from her family and friends. both commented on people’s perception that they’re conceited because of their skin color and hair texture, an assumption that has made it difficult for them to form friendships. hearing them speak was the first time i stepped outside of my pain and realized how oppression has no favorites. light, dark or somewhere in the middle, we’re all struggling to love ourselves at the hands of a divisive system.
read raquel wilkerson’s thoughts on how colorism cuts both ways here.