Stop Ignoring The Colorism In Our Latinx Community

Stop Ignoring The Colorism In Our Latinx Community

Some Latinas look more like Amara La Negra then Jennifer Lopez, and they are just as beautiful

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Let me start off with this...I am no expert on how to navigate the waters of conversations surrounding race but what I do know is that I am not afraid to have them, and you shouldn't be either.

Now more than ever, it is so important to be open to having these conversations, however difficult that might seem. What I find interesting and disturbing at the same time is the deeply rooted prejudices that are held even within my own community. I am a second generation Dominican American. My Abuela, like many others who traveled to this country, came here with the hopes of giving her family and legacy a chance at a better life. I am thankful beyond measure for being a first-generation college student.

I can already hear what some might say in response to my opinion on this. I wasn't born in the country, I don't speak the language perfectly, and what do I know, right? And maybe they're right, who am I to point out the very obvious prejudice many of my people hold? But I do acknowledge that it is generations of political and societal oppressions that have contributed to this distorted perception of what beauty in our Latinx community looks like.

I remember my first blowout and how excited everyone was to finally see my hair straight sleek and shiny. Every time I stepped into the salon with my tangled messy bun, or what we call a pajon, people would ask my mother how she managed my hair. She'd jokingly say that she doesn't and that we were there so they could fix it since it was just too much for her to handle.

By the end of those visits, my hair was pin straight and everyone would point out how beautiful the blanquita was and how blessed I was with that head of hair. I quickly associated my feeling beautiful with getting my hair straightened and for a long time hated my curly hair.


Denise Hernandez

What really struck me though, was the difference in the way they approached my hair compared to my sister's. My sister is much darker than I am, and with curls that coil much more refined, was always told that she needed to relax her hair. They'd explain that she needed to come in at least once a month for treatments to make it more manageable. This bothered me because, as her older sister, she is my entire world. I never wanted her to feel as though she needed to change herself to feel beautiful.

I remember the first time we sat down and watched Black Girls Rock together because she cried seeing herself celebrated on tv. I created a playlist of music that was inspired by her beauty. On it, songs I have songs like Solange's 'Don't Touch My Hair', India Arie's 'I Am Not My Hair,' and 'Girl Can't Be Herself' by Alicia Keys. This was one of the first times that I realized and understood my role in her life not only as her sister but as a conscious human being.

I am a light skinned Latina, I have a privilege and a responsibility to celebrate Latinas that look like me, but more importantly the ones who don't.

To my family members darker than me, I have always been in awe of your radiance, beauty, and intellect. I want the world to celebrate you in the same ways I do, and I want to be a part of that change.

Till then, let's call each other out when people make comments about marrying lighter to "advance the race," and let's stop claiming that our hair is unmanageable when in its natural state, and let's instill a sense of pride in our younger generations so they grow up challenging the standard. Many in the latinx community don't like to identify as Afro-Latina/o/x, and they don't have, too but for those who do: I hope you stand proudly in your power.

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What Does Equality Mean To America?

Does America truly have the equality it preaches?
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Equality is a right given to all the citizens of the United States of America, and the quote “all men are created equal” was a central idea in the Declaration of Independence, one of the most influential documents in our country’s history. Equality is everyone having the same fundamental rights, no matter the circumstance. Equality is everyone having the same worth. Although equality is a key tenet dating back to the founding of our country, it is not fully honored, even to this day. Many minority groups do not receive complete equality, both economically and socially. Equality is a lofty goal our country still strives toward.

We must keep continue to strive toward equality in this day in age. Already, our nation has progressed. We have given all citizens the right to vote, the rights to many basic freedoms citizens of other countries simply do not possess. We have the right to free speech, more freedom than 40% of the planet. We have the right to bear arms, the right to fair trial, among numerous other freedoms.

Yet, the United States is not perfect. Social equality still has not arrived for many African Americans and Latinos, with arrest and conviction rates much higher than their white counterparts still prevalent. These minorities suffer social injustice and prejudice. Muslim Americans have oft been falsely accused and derided because of their religion. Economic equality has not been realized either, and a wage gap of 20% persists.

But, we can change this. Us as a nation must stand for equality and strive for the ideal world where everyone is equal.

Cover Image Credit: Surge

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Lighter Skin Doesn't Automatically Make You More Beautiful, Colorism Is A Real Issue

No matter how dark or how light you are, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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South Asian communities are keen on the image of beauty having relation to being "fair and lovely." Eurocentric beauty standards and traditions have often led to a vast statistic of young brown teenage girls to feel insecure about the melanin they were born with. I've never unraveled this concept of relating paler skin with more beauty. Growing up, I've had the "privilege" of living beneath a light colored complexion, as relatives, family friends, and even strangers, have often glorified the color of my skin. I was introduced to a concept called "light-skinned privilege."

A dark-skinned girl would write about the adversity she faced as she tackles a society that shames her skin and worships European beauty features. She'd recount how she overcame this shallow mentality by learning to love and accept her dark skin. To provide an interesting twist, I am writing from the perspective on the other end of the spectrum, as a "light-skinned" brown girl, to acknowledge the fact that my skin gives me privilege in a society that has been internalizing colorist values for generations on end, and why this toxic mentality is harming brown communities.

In a metaphorical and comprehensible sense, it may be simple to compare "light skin privilege" to "white privilege," or colorism to racism. Both are systematic preferences for individuals who are of a superior trait, color, or race, giving those people societal advantages in regards to their possession of the ideal physical attractiveness standards. Colored men and women are systematically oppressed by colorist or racist means; sometimes, unfortunately, by both at the same time. But colorism, compared to racism, is an anomalous social issue that occurs every day, something I've recognized since I was nine years old.

It was nearly 100 degrees. The concrete of my backyard burned the soles of my feet and the air was laced with intensified humidity. But still, it's summer. No one stays in their house; folks practically lived in the outdoors. We cooked, conversed, slept, and ate right on our own property. The people of my culture spend every day living in the ambiance under the sun, so why is colorism such a normality?

It's because my people want to embrace their sun, but are pressured to hide in the shade. My nine-year-old charismatic self completely ignored this. I played freeze tag, rode my bike, and played games under the sun all day, until one day, my mom said to me:

"Melissa why you run in the sun all day? Your skin will turn black!"

She expects me to spend more time in the shade than in the sun. If I am in the sun, I must be fully clothed, even in 100-degree weather. Wearing a tank top and shorts while being in the sun is utterly scorned upon. It is dangerous, detrimental to my well-being, not because of the fact that I'm exposed to an excessive amount of harmful UV rays that can potentially cause skin cancer, but because my skin tone will become darker, and my "beauty will fade."

To avoid any misinterpretation of all this, I'm not whining about how "difficult" it is to have light skin. I'm not saying that those with light skin can be oppressed just as much as people with dark skin. Because they can't be. It's not the same. In reference to my racism analogy previously mentioned, saying people with light skin can also be oppressed in colorist communities is like saying white people can be oppressed in colored communities. This is completely false. The concept applies both ways; the same way minorities cannot systematically oppress white people is comparable to dark-skinned people not having the privilege and power in society to discriminate light skin people.

When a girl is shamed for her dark complexion, encouraged to bleach her skin, buys foundation a few shades lighter, invests in the popular "Fair & Lovely" skin cream, idolizes magazine cover models who are only of light skin complexion, learns that men in colorist communities prefer light-skinned women over dark skin, this is known as real, systematic oppression. This is a problem that is highly underrated.

However, there are no creams used to make a person of lighter complexion darker. No one is pressuring me to stay in the sun so I can be darker. What my mother had said to me was not systematically oppressive at all. It was said in a tone of admiration and caution, not a tone of distaste and discrimination.

I've read works addressing social injustices such as racism and police brutality, sexism, and homophobia, but can barely recall one that touched upon colorism. Today, I've used my "light skin privilege" as a platform to speak out against colorism and to raise awareness on the problematic cultural notions instilled in the minds of young girls in colored societies.

In other words, love your skin! Love the color of it, please. No matter how dark or how light you are. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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