Colorism covers more than black and white

Dayana Plaisime, Editor

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In today’s society, it often seems like discussing racial issues and disparities is restricted. Discussions of race overall are often viewed as a disruption of social customs. There seems to be three types of individuals when dealing with race: those consciously unaware of racial adversities, those aware of racial adversities and those who say “they don’t see race” or “we are all one race, which is the human race.”

But discussing race is important because racism still poses a problematic issue. Skin color matters. According to humans are visual creatures. The pigmentation of one’s skin is visible to the naked eye. It’s one of the things we see when introduced to others. And we can draw conclusions and stereotype based on that pigmentation. It’s called colorism. Whereas race is a human classification based on shared traits and distinctive physical characteristics, colorism is based just on the outward appearance of one’s skin color.

Skin color can serve as an obvious criterion to differentiate members of a group. However, prejudice often leads this observable distinction to affect how society sees an individual. These prejudices can be seen in how groups are portrayed in movies and television, and how they are treated by the justice system.

Historically, light-skinned slaves were deemed more beautiful and often received better treatment and fewer punishments, working inside versus outside in the scorching sun or severe weather. Even today lighter skin also plays a role in the concept of beauty. Lighter skin is often deemed more favorable or preferable to darker skin. This issue does not only exist in America. Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America all hold examples of this prejudice as well. In Latin America in Telenovelas we often see Latinas/Latinos of predominantly European features play more meaningful roles than those who are darker.

In America, colorism is the result of deeply embedded racism. African Americans were subjected to years of oppression; they were hated and mistreated by slave owners. The treatment of lighter skinned slaves made them see themselves and the color of their skin as inferior.

In the media, the portrayal of darker skin versus lighter skin is pretty upsetting. Lighter-skinned women are often portrayed as educated, well-mannered and kind while the dark-skinned women are portrayed as ghetto. Let’s take the TV show “Martin,” for example. Gina Martin’s girlfriend,, who is lighter than Pam, is poised, beautiful and avoids conflicts to her best ability, whereas Pam, who is equally beautiful, is portrayed as loud, “ghetto” and annoying.  Dark-skinned black women are portrayed as angry, over-sexualized and loud. Black women are often cast as slaves or maids in the movies. The portrayal of darker skinned males in the media is also problematic, as black men are often portrayed as thugs, murderers, drug dealers, deadbeat fathers, poor and the list goes on.

The representation of darker skinned individuals in the media reinforces prejudgments and stereotypes that negatively impact and hinders the growth in African American communities. While the media is changing by trying to show positive images of darker-skinned individuals with movies like “Black Panther,” it still has a long ways to go. Hundreds of years after slavery, colorism still exists. I remember having classmates from school tell me once I was really beautiful for a black girl. Sadly, I am not the first to receive these types of comments. People who make these comments seem unaware that it is not a compliment in any shape or form.

Although colorism has not fully disappeared, there have been improvements on how those with darker skin are treated and portrayed in the media.  Movies such as “Black Panther” and poems such as “My Black Is Beautiful” encourage dark-skinned individuals to love themselves and not be defined by European beauty expectations.


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Student newspaper of Park University
Colorism covers more than black and white