noun | co-lor-ism


Colorism. What is it? How did it come about? And why is it relevant to us in today’s society? Colorism is way deeper than racism. You can relate the two in terms of discrimination, but they are two entirely different things. Racism is the how people define your social status according to race. Example, in racism, it does not matter what complexion I am, I’m Black, therefore I will always be lower on the social scale. Anything I do to prove myself ultimately fails because I have Black ancestry. Whereas in Colorism, one’s social status is defined by your skin tone. Example, in colorism, I’m in the middle of the “Black” color spectrum which means I’d be given better opportunities than people darker than me, but less opportunities than those lighter than me. So if we were comparing skin color to the financial class system, I’d probably be middle class. Not too bad, but I could always be better.


 Remember in Precious when Precious looked in the mirror and said seen that white girl? That was an example of Colorism (along with a few other flaws and imperfections she seen in herself). She was told by her mother and other tormenting students that she was fat and black, and it led her to believe that these two traits put her at the bottom of the social chain. To be fat and black was to be nothing, so she constantly told herself that if she was white and skinny her life would somehow be 100 times better. Of course this is an inaccurate thought.

Colorism is one of the leading causes of the divide in the African-American community. It effects the possibility of dating, friendships, and can even slim your chances of getting that dream job you have always wanted. This is also known as the famous “Light skins vs. Dark skins” debate that we so often see on social media. If you’re light skinned, you’re probably known as the over-emotional, Drake-like,  educated, and feminine male who somehow always wins in the end. If you’re dark skinned, you’re probably known as the over-aggressive, DMX-like, thuggish, and ignorant male who’s sole purpose in life is to lose. Neither of these statements are true though. However, the one trait they do share is ignorance.

Colorism is one of the few “isms” that we acknowledge that were created by the European mindset. Others being racism, sexism, and other favorites! So how did it come about? In the slave era, White men would essentially rape anything with a pulse to assert their power and masculinity. While some of the masters did rape men, it of course was more common amongst the female slaves and it showed. Black women were being raped by their masters and were delivering their unwanted offspring nine months later. With this happening generation after generation, the color of the “negro” began to get lighter and this was the birth of the mulatto (someone having both Black and White ancestry, which is essentially what most Black people are today). What the masters essentially started doing was pitting the slaves against each other through classifying into two categories: house slaves and field slaves. The house slaves were the lighter colored slaves who you could say the masters held a little bit more compassion for because most were their direct offspring. The field slaves did also consist of lighter skinned Blacks, but they were predominately darker slaves. The masters would hold the house slaves to a higher standard, showing them more respect and regard than those on the field. In receiving better treatment then the field slaves, the house slaves felt to be better than those darker and the field slaves started to resent them for it. The masters taught all slaves that to be White was to be right, and that the features of the pure African were savage-like. Everything on the darker slaves were taught to be known as ugly and incorrect. The house slaves were taught that the field workers were not pretty, they were unintelligent, and incapable of caring for themselves. In slave revolts or escapes, the house slaves would usually try to convince the others not to go or would go as far as to tell their master because of their conflicting loyalty.


A lot of us engage in the act of Colorism and don’t even know it. My number one hated saying that promotes the idea of Colorism is “Oh, you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl.” People always say this and it grinds my gears because its like because she’s darker she has a whole lot more to prove. This goes back to the whole field vs house slave mindset, essentially stating that you can’t be beautiful because you’re dark. Not saying that light skin isn’t beautiful, but dark skin is just as appealing to the eyes. This is essentially how the “Light skin vs. Dark skin” controversy started. Darker Blacks started labeling Light Skins “soft,” “over-emotional,” and other feminine traits as a backlash to the light skin community labeling darker skinned individuals “uneducated,” “thuggish,” and “overly aggressive.” But one of the biggest issues in the African-American Community is that while we bash each other over our skin, White people still see us all as “Black.” We are too busy bashing each other to see that this was a systematic plan to divide us in order to keep us enslaved mentally.

But Colorism isn’t limited to just the United States. It is a universal thing. Ariana Miyamoto, better known as 2015’s “Miss Japan,” was a victim of Colorism. Having an African-American father and a Japanese mother, Miyamoto’s childhood was no walk in the park. She was taunted for her darker skin, parents removed their kids from schools she attended, and she couldn’t even get into a pool without everyone getting out thinking they would “catch” her skin color. Of course in winning the crown she proved that she was just as graceful and beautiful as any other Asian, but that does not mean she doesn’t wear the scars of hatred. But it is good to see someone turning their societal “flaw” into their greatest accomplishment.

What you should have come to realize is that Colorism is one of the many issues hindering Black growth as a community. We are using something as simple as skin color to divide us when we all share the same exact heritage. If we cannot stand united, then we will fall divided. Take from this that no matter what skin complexion you are, Black is beautiful, all the time.

Rasheed Davis