Colorism

Hello people,

Over the past month or so, I’ve felt myself drifting off course spiritually; I no longer found as much joy as I used to in serving at church, fasting became a tool that killed two birds with one stone (on one hand, it would help me hear from God but more importantly, I would lose some weight) and I began to recognize traits of selfishness in myself. If it wasn’t convenient for me, I would either not bother myself or I would bother myself but it would be with a very nasty attitude. I’ve also been on holiday with my girlfriends from university for a while and they’ve opened my eyes to areas of my personality that need work. I was reading my journal a couple of days ago and I came across and entry I made at the beginning of the year. It was so passionate and spirit-filled and it was clear to me that I had drifted away from that girl. I’m grateful that I was able to make the self-evaluation towards the end of the first half of this year. It’s time to get back to where I used to be and to keep growing from there.

Yesterday, I was thinking about what to blog about and I couldn’t come up with anything. I’m on holiday in Los Angeles at the moment and I was watching the Oprah Winfrey Network when a documentary about black girls came on television called “dark girls”. To summarize, in many parts of the U.S girls that are light-skinned are thought to be better than dark-skinned girls. Please note that I said BETTER and not MORE BEAUTIFUL. There seems to be a form of discrimination WITHIN the African-American community against women who have darker coloured skin and the appropriate term for it is ‘colorism’. It also happens among Asians and Hispanics. A number of women spoke of how they were told by older members of their families to marry light-skinned men so that they would “improve the race of the family”. Again, it’s not about the colour in itself, it’s about what the color means: as far as they’re concerned, light-skinned means you’re a better human being than a dark-skinned person.

A young dark-skinned African-American girl of about five years of age was given a chart with 5 drawings of the same cartoon character but with different shades of skin color. The picture to the extreme left was very light-skinned and the picture to the extreme right was very dark-skinned. The young girl was asked who was most likely to be dumb and dirty and she pointed to the girl on the extreme right. She was then asked who was likely to be clean and smart and she pointed to the girl on the extreme left. Most importantly, this 5-year old girl was dark-skinned so imagine what she must think of herself. My next train of thought was where she must have possibly come up with this idea that light-skinned girls were better than people like her because it was something that was new to me and I found it difficult to understand.

Now, I know in Nigeria that we have the whole skin bleaching thing but I feel like it’s something that is prevalent in the older generations. I also know that fair-skinned girls are generally considered to be very beautiful but I believe that’s a different phenomenon from colorism. I feel like being fair-skinned can be viewed as a physical attribute sometimes but it ends there at the physical level and is the same thing as having a nice figure, good cheekbones or great muscle tone that doesn’t come from working out. They’re all good things to have but not having them does not make you a lesser human being nor does it exclude you from being considered as beautiful. I’m a dark-skinned young lady that happens to be beautiful.

However, this colorism situation is different because it uses skin tone as an indicator of the quality of a human being and I believe that is absolutely ridiculous. My heart breaks for the number of young women who have been told by the people closest to them that they are second-class human beings because of the colour of their skin. A lot of these women have been exposed to this sort of thinking from a very young age and they carry that deep-seated insecurity for most of their lives.

I have been thinking of what to write as a potential solution to the problem but I feel like anything I say would belittle the issue. Yes, people of the same race should not judge each other based on the color of their skin but it’s deeper than that. The only thing that comes to mind and makes sense in my head is that there needs to be a serious shift in consciousness. How that will come about, I honestly don’t know but the reason why this issue disturbs me is the effect it will have on young girls of color and the unnecessary baggage it presents, as if we don’t have enough self-image issues to deal with already.

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I would especially  love to hear feedback and opinions on this subject matter so please feel free to leave comments and questions. Thanks