Yesha Callahan

Open Thread: What Will It Take For Us To Overcome Our Colorism Issues?

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This week it was announced that LisaRaye McCoy’s Independent film Skinned has been picked up by TV One and will make its debut on the network next year. Skinned, which, according to Essence, was nominated in November as one of the best independent films at Atlanta’s Bronze Lens Film Festival, tells the story of a woman named Jolie, described on the movie’s website as a “complex character.”

“Though she’s dark, beautiful, and appears confident at times, her self-esteem is extremely low. This stems from the fact that she’s the object of childhood and adulthood cruelty concerning the darkness of her skin. Throughout her life, she has had nothing but put downs in this regard. Worse of all, her other two sisters are lighter in complexion and always considered the prettier ones. They are all socialites and have lots of guys beating down their door. Jolie on the other hand has never been on a single date. However, when she gets to college and falls head over heels in love with a light-skinned college swim star, things take an unforeseen turn.”

In recent years, we’ve finally seen darker complected black women being given a space to openly and honestly talk about what many would like to pretend is no longer an issue in our community: colorism. Documentaries like Dark Girls put that topic right on front street and sparked lively debate online, but what we’ve yet to see in all of these discussions are concrete solutions for getting past light-skinned versus dark-skinned jokes, “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” (non) compliments, and ogling over fairer complected women for their European features.

Hollywood and their race and colorism issues aside, the people largely responsible for the prevalence of shame handed down to darker complected girls and boys are us. Most times the problem starts right at home when you begin to notice how often your light-skinned cousin is told she’s pretty and you’ve yet to hear it once, or any compliment you’re given are expressed with your skin being a caveat to that attractiveness. Or even as we’ll see with the fictional character in LisaRaye’s project, someone suggests you bleach your skin if you want to get ahead. The question is, will the buck stop with us?

An extension of the natural hair movement has been learning to embrace everything about our natural selves that makes us beautiful, including our skin tone. Black women are more awake to their beauty and the importance of instilling that same pride in future generations of black girls more than ever, but when, in 2015, movies like Skinned still have to be made (or do they?) it makes us wonder what keeps some of us clinging to the oppressive paper bag regime that has scarred all of us in some way — because light or dark, all white people see is black. So is talking about it enough? Or are there some concrete things we all need to commit to — to ensure the next generation of “dark girls” never has to hear that they’re pretty for anything, they’re simply beautiful?

  1. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    With the affects of white supremacy and colonialism so deeply tattooed on our DNA I wonder if we can ever be healed from the cancer of colorism. I would like to think that the current natural hair movement is a small step towards that healing, however colorism has crept its way into that as well with ridiculous hair typing systems and when women boldly cut off their processed hair only to be left in despair when they find out their natural hair texture isn’t like Tracee Ellis Ross’. We have a long way to go. Perhaps several generations from the now the nuclear bomb radiation-like affects of slavery will be completely removed from our bloodstreams and we will be able to fully appreciate all of the beautiful shades of our people. Until then, we remain a sickly people who never fully healed from such a traumatic history. They “freed” us but we never healed….therein lies the problem.

    • December 16, 2015 - Reply

      @FragranceObsessed

      I understand you well but if we still internalize all this nonsense even within generations of families, who are we to complain if/when ‘they’ apply the same standards to us too? We moan about Hollywood choosing bi-racial and light-skinned thespians over their dark-skinned brethren but most people in the community still glamourize light-skinned individuals (and children! Smh…) and ‘they’ see this, nod their heads and continue the trend in the sectors they control.

      I know that in recent years, there’s been a trend towards appreciating dark-skinned individuals/kinky-coily natural hair and that’s GREAT but this colourism cancer requires radiation from within. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

      • February 6, 2016 - Reply

        @AfroCapricornette

        You too will be old one day. Accept that you may be the (first) matriach in your bloodline, to raise a dynasty of black-loving black people.

        • February 6, 2016 - Reply

          @CayaK

          There are millions of Black families that raise Black-loving families round the globe.

          • February 6, 2016 - Reply

            @AfroCapricornette

            I was responding to the following: “I understand you well but if we still internalize all this nonsense even within generations of families, who are we to complain if/when ‘they’ apply the same standards to us too? “

    • February 6, 2016 - Reply

      @FragranceObsessed

      I healed from it by learning my human, female and black history from 100,000 ago till know. Including the Egyptian dynasties, Kush dynasties other African kingdoms . I also read Art of War and studied why power shifted to the East and then West. How the West became rich by looting, polluting and brain-washing. How colonialist used “opiums” that helped us hate/reject/mistrust our own everything (skin, hair, body types, culture, beliefs,food). It’s a journey worth the while. Once you understand what the root of the problem is, you will understand what the solution is.

  2. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    Two words = SELF LOVE.

    • December 16, 2015 - Reply

      @Grace

      A simplistic approach to a systemic and complex issue.

      • December 17, 2015 - Reply

        @Den Un

        I can’t interpret the tone of your post. However, I do think a simplistic approach can work.

        • December 19, 2015 - Reply

          @Grace

          I’m pushing my glasses up my nose, that’s my tone. Frankly speaking…no one wants to see what self love (read: self preservation and affirmation) looks like;
          Separating Race from Color with a legal definition for color under the Civil Rights of 1964. Making it protected class without the racial overlap.
          Lobbying for more research into the color disparities and discrimination and creating policy to end them.
          Promoting a black aesthetic instead of a black experience.
          Notice how none of this has to do with men’s preferences or perceived attractiveness based on skin color.

          • February 6, 2016 - Reply

            @Den Un

            I agree with you that self love is about more than “also” portraying black people (read: dark-skinned black people) as beautiful. I believe the solution is in knowing your history as far back as human history can go while understanding how power works and how building of capital works. Then that knowledge must be implemented to increase the capital and power of black people so these symptoms of poverty (in the broadest sense) can be addressed.

  3. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    This is a fight for liberation. Liberation deals with love, mental freedom, and an appreciation of Blackness in full. So, the solution will involve many things not just one thing. Black youth should be educated by parents, teachers, clergy people, community, leaders, etc. that all of us hues from light to dark is beautiful (and that any black person should be treated fairly irrespective of our hues). That truth must be told to the youth constantly. Also, we have to confront those who have colorist views. Some black folks (even grown adults) have evil, vicious, and colorist views. They must be confronted and exposed. This process will take a long time and colorism will probably not be eliminated in our generation. Yet, we will fight to make sure that colorism ill be defeated in the future. That is the goal. We have to both work among ourselves and confront the instruments of oppression that promote colorism too. Colorism is not just an individual problem. It’s a structural problem as found in whitewashing our image and in discriminatory policies among numerous occupations. So, we have to promote self-love, treat our people fairly, work in our community to root out colorism, and fight back against the forces (which include many corporations, etc.) that unfortunately benefit from evil of colorism. A multifaceted approach is needed.

  4. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    Colorism is like a cancer in our souls that has festered within us for generations. I don’t believe there is a quick fix but I do believe we, collectively, can began to heal those wounds, starting with our black children. Now more than ever, due to advanced technology, we are constantly surrounded by the faux, media driven imagery of the so-called Euro-centric beauty standard. Our young people are constantly being influenced and manipulated which, in my opinion, feeds self hate.
    We can’t stop the onslaught of mass media infiltration, but we can shower our children with love and positive elements during their most developmental years.
    At the risk of sounding corny, I’m a firm believer in the old African proverb:” It takes a village to raise a child”. The healing starts at home.

    • December 16, 2015 - Reply

      @Chazz A

      “At the risk of sounding corny, I’m a firm believer in the old African proverb:” It takes a village to raise a child”.

      Nopes. Nothing corny there. We strongly believe it and practice it too. What even annoys me more is when I see/hear some dark-skinned individuals blame their colour for everything: not getting a job/partner/money etc and while we know there are institutional barriers for POC (that are being cracked every minute. Praise da Lord!), the fact that these people blame their skin colour for their short-comings just grates on my nerves! This of course just helps in diminishing their confidence and esteem more as they’ll always base their success (or lack of) on their skin colour.

      • December 16, 2015 - Reply

        @AfroCapricornette

        i agree. your comment made me think of harriet tubman. ms. harriet tubman didn’t need anyone to tell her she was beautiful. she had enough self-confidence self-esteem to move forward, take charge, and change her life as well as the lives of others. ms. tubman was married twice. i personally think she was absolutely one of the most beautiful women in the world.

  5. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    “What Will It Take For Us To Overcome Our Colorism Issues?”what will it takes it will take black people to study and obtain a knowledge of themselves and develop an affinity for self and kind but I would bet on that so it won’t change until God come down and change the mindset of humanbeings.

    • December 17, 2015 - Reply

      @trueletterson*vwfone@gmail.com

      There will always be some form of beauty standards. I only have a problem when people harass other people for not having the ideal beauty standard.No one should be harassed. However, society doesn’t have to find everyone attractive. There will always be someone who thinks you’re unattractive because your too dark, too short, too fat, etc. So called Colorism will stop being an individual issue, when individuals realize other people’s idea of beauty can’t be controlled. Its the price of living in a free society. Someone out here finds you attractive, you just have to work hard in finding that person. Not being able to get a job, healthcare, or education because of color is a different story.

      • December 17, 2015 - Reply

        @Objection

        good point!

  6. December 16, 2015 - Reply

    Answer: proper representation of unambiguous black women as beautiful.

    First we need a community that values blackness and has predominantly structured households.

    • December 17, 2015 - Reply

      @Ms. Vee

      Who benefits from colorism?…If you can’t answer that then you can’t fight it and spear me the big bad white supremacy answer.

      • December 17, 2015 - Reply

        @lis

        Since you’re so smart, and cant connect colorism to the ideology of looking/being physically white to being better (aka white supremacy), then feel free to answer your question. Enlighten me.

        • December 18, 2015 - Reply

          @Ms. Vee

          Smart?..I wish…..Not as lucky as you…..but I’m saying we always look outside, To find the blame and to fix the problem….And yes it started outside but it’s festering within…so where do Black women look, what do they have to face to kill off this disease?.

  7. December 17, 2015 - Reply

    We always blame media…but can’t seem to walk away from it….so if as we say, media, in its various forms, is a major contributor to the promotion of colorism?…what is stopping Blacks from turning off their tvs, especially in front of their children, stop spending their money on crappy movies where they are not represented, etc…..
    If this is such a huge obstacle to the end of colorism?…why consume it?…or is it that there is more to this colorism disease that we as Black women do not really want to face? Who does colorism benefit?

  8. December 17, 2015 - Reply

    In answer to the title question of this article: DIVINE INTERVENTION.

  9. December 17, 2015 - Reply

    “… because light or dark, all white people see is black…”

    This is false. It suggests that colorism is not a systemic form of oppression. Darker skinned children are more likely to be suspended than their lighter skinned peers. Thus, they are targeted more by the school-to-prison pipeline. Darker skinned people are also more disadvantaged in the work place, earn less money on average, and are profiled more by the police.
    ANTI-BLACK COLORISM IS A SYSTEMIC FORM OF OPPRESSION

  10. February 6, 2016 - Reply

    I will be watching this soon

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