Colorism And Its Impact On Society

Colorism And Its Impact On Society

The war we never seem to overcome...
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“If you’re black, stay back;
if you’re brown, stick around;
if you’re yellow, you’re mellow;
if you’re white, you’re all right.”



Throughout humankind, there have been many wars that have peaked headlines and global interest but there is one war that has outlasted all precedent.

That war is within us, within the people around us, within our own race. That war deteriorates us from the inside out and it is called colorism.

What is colorism?

In a changing American culture with an increasing minority population, skin color is becoming a more common gauge for some Americans--of all races--to determine who fits in and who does not.

A caste system that novelist Alice Walker termed "colorism" has existed in the black community since slavery, stemmed from the hierarchy established by slave masters for the light-skinned blacks who worked in the house and dark-skinned slaves who tended the fields. (Washington Post)

Colorism is a form of intergroup stratification generally associated with Black people in the United States but present among all peoples of color.

Colorism subjectively ranks individuals according to the perceived color tones of their skin. People who "look white" receive preferential or prejudicial treatment both within and between races.

Social statuses, marriage desirability, economic and educational attainment often have been historically related to light skin tones.

Many racial groups are known to have pride in their heritage, culture, and roots, so is the fact that one race could be racist against their own kind preposterous? How did colorism surface?

In the United States colorism has its roots in slavery. That’s because slave-owners typically gave preferential treatment to slaves of lighter complexions.

While dark-skinned slaves toiled outdoors in the fields, their light-skinned counterparts usually worked indoors, completing domestic tasks that were far less grueling.

Slave-owners were partial to light-skinned slaves because they were often family members. Slave-owners frequently engaged in sexual intercourse with slave women, and light-skinned offspring were the telltale signs of these unions.

While the owners did not officially recognize their mixed-race children as blood, they gave them privileges that dark-skinned slaves did not enjoy. Accordingly, light skin came to be viewed as an asset among the slave community.

After slavery ended in the United States, colorism did not disappear forever. In black America, those with light skin received employment opportunities off limits to darker-skinned African Americans.

This is why upper-class families in black society were largely light-skinned. Soon light skin and privilege were considered one in the same in the black community, with light skin being the sole criterion for acceptance into the black aristocracy.

Upper echelon blacks routinely administered the brown paper bag test to determine if fellow blacks were light enough to socialize with. (“The paper bag would be held against your skin. And if you were darker than the paper bag, you weren’t admitted,” explained Marita Golden, author of "Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex.")

The lingering question is why is this relevant to our society now? We have a black president and live in a so-called post-racial society so why would race still be a question? Research shows that colorism yields real-world advantages for individuals with light skin.

For example, light-skinned Latinos make $5,000 more on average than dark-skinned Latinos, according to Shankar Vedantam, author of "The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives."

Moreover, a Villanova University study of more than 12,000 African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina found that lighter-skinned black women received shorter sentences than their darker-skinned counterparts.

Previous research by Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt found that darker-skinned black defendants were two times more likely than lighter-skinned black defendants to get the death penalty for crimes involving white victims.

Colorism does not just play a role when it comes to work or in the criminal justice system but in the romantic realm as well.

Because fair skin is associated with beauty and status, light-skinned black women are more likely to be married than darker-skinned black women, according to some reports.

“We find that the light-skin shade as measured by survey interviewers is associated with about a 15 percent greater probability of marriage for young black women,” said researchers who conducted a study called “Shedding ‘Light’ on Marriage.”

Light skin is so coveted that whitening creams continue to be best-sellers in the U.S., Asia and other nations. Mexican-American women in Arizona, California and Texas have reportedly suffered mercury poisoning after turning to whitening creams to bleach their skin.

In India, popular skin-bleaching lines target both women and men with dark skin. Skin-bleaching cosmetics have persisted for decades, signaling the enduring legacy of colorism.

From Asia to India, from the United States to Africa, from Oprah to filmmakers such as Spike Lee, to playwrights such as May Miller, colorism had reached and impacted all fields, despite language and cultural barriers and remains prevalent in our society today.

In sum, colorism refers to discrimination based on skin color.

Colorism disadvantages dark-skinned people, while privileging those with lighter skin. Research has linked colorism to smaller incomes, lower marriage rates, longer prison terms and fewer job prospects for darker-skinned people.

Colorism has existed for centuries both in and outside of black America. That makes it a persistent form of discrimination that should be fought with the same urgency that racism is. Interracial colorism has played a significant role in the plethora of ills that exist among people of color.

In the millennium, colorism is still an issue that continues to separate and divide people of color.

Despite the overabundance of insidious discriminatory acts inflicted upon people of color, acts of discrimination occurring among members belonging to the same racial group are just as insidious.

W.E.B. Du Bois once wrote, “for the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”. “The problem of the twenty-first century is still the problem of the color line" (Culbreth, 2006).

“As an individual of color, it is extremely hard, especially as a female, to grow up in a society such as this. Our past is poisoning our future and unless we surpass the skin barrier, we are limiting bright opportunities and trapping ourselves in a stagnant river that will only leave us to drown in our own ignorance.”

Cover Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jermfestphotography/5092337967/

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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