Type the word 'colorism' in your google search bar and see what you find. Countless images may pop up of black and brown people in an array of shades aligned next to each other. Compared to each other; Separated from each other. There's also an image of a recent episode from the TV show "Black-ish' in which the youngest daughter addresses the difference between her skin color and that of her family. The episode aired on January 19, 2019, and was emotionally packed with years of history etched throughout it. It displayed how ideologies based on the false concept that lighter skin is better than darker skin has continued to seep into modern society today; even amongst families. It also explained how, this is not an issue only limited to the African American community, but many communities of color.
For those who do not know, colorism is when people are treated differently based on social and cultural implications attached to skin color; sometimes within the same community. I want to be clear that there's nothing wrong with stating facts. Someone may have dark or light skin, but when people start judging (good or bad) because of it, then there is an issue. As an African-American woman myself, I couldn't tell you the first time I encountered this. However, I guarantee I felt the effects of it way before ever learning the textbook term. This is an ideology that cannot be fully deconstructed in one article, which is why I'm starting the conversation to explore different angles of it. I also need to address that this is the topic from my standpoint, an African American woman living in 2019. My view may be different from many, which is why I'm looking forward to inspecting other views in the following weeks regarding topics like:
-Hair and why it can be political
-Social Privilege based on skin color
-Cultural Appropriation versus Art
Just to name a few. In closing though, I'd like to share a poem I wrote a while back regarding my feelings about colorism. Like I stated earlier, these issues won't be solved in one article. However, it's a drop in the ocean moving towards a different tide.
Lena tell me how you did it.
From the cotton club to
the wiz, in this biz
you can't run
On a Sunday in the dressing room
my brown irises clenched around
She wailed of almost being there,
of the middle.
Who feels their skin?
Debbie tell me how the bones
in your feet make dresses fly.
How the West side was made for
but never 'I'.
what the eyes want.
Give me a crayon to color the honeycomb
roaming in my stomach.
Is it orange?
Black or Beige?
Tell the seven year old in Mrs.Wooters class that
it's just a phase.
"There's no need to shade our perception."
Your wax is not in
Who feels their skin?
Nina tell me how you made us hear the
birds when you riddled?
Your tarsals stretched past your hands
and your body painted the stage
to swallow the bruises.
I was a bowl of strawberries
Drink and engulf.
I've swelled up
Whose skin feels?
Will how did you do it?
Stand in the center and climb to the ceiling.
Plant your heart on the ground and
Pass it around.
not huff about the wolf
who tried to blow your homeland
on colonialism in
the face of their descendants.
do you say it
How could I say?
I felt my skin across my face when
my ancestors were the curriculum?
That this skin has made others
question what's mixed in?
That this skin held an underwhelming answer?
That this skin has caused competition?
That this skin has put me
in the middle?
Shea butter brown.
Lena how did you believe you could
Debbie how were you sweet and young
Nina how did you clap wind into our ears?
Will how did you hold your fears
I feel my skin.