There are too many misconceptions and myths about colorism currently floating around, such as the idea that colorism is only a black American problem, or the notion that colorism is less prevalent than racism and thus, a lesser evil. While I’d love to debunk each one of these claims, I’ve chosen to focus on the three ideas I’ve heard most commonly.
1. Colorism Only Affects “Ugly” Dark-Skinned Girls
Gas-lighters who attempt to rebuff the existence of colorism and shame darker-toned women often love to claim that colorism is a problem exclusive to so-called “ugly” or “average” dark-skinned black women. However, a quick internet search will debunk this lazy argument.
There are many above-average and exceptionally attractive dark-skinned black women who have spoken about colorism and its influence on their personal and professional lives. From Gabrielle Union to Keke Palmer to Lupita N’yongo to Kelly Rowland, there are multitudes of beautiful dark-skinned women who have publicized their experiences with colorism.
2. “We Are All Black”
Yes, lighter-skinned black people and dark-skinned black people are all black. But when it comes to our treatment in society, we are not all the same, nor are we treated equally. Just because white people view us all as black, doesn’t mean the system of white supremacy treats us all the same. Studies have shown that darker-skinned black people face longer prison sentences, harsher treatment in schools, and many other disadvantages in society.
So, when we speak out, we’re not separating or “othering” ourselves from our lighter-skinned counterparts, we’re simply defending our existence, our livelihoods and better representation of ourselves in the media. Colorism is serious. While it may not be the biggest issue that pertains to black Americans, it is one of the problematic areas that black people will have to address if we want to get serious about ending racism and white supremacy.
3. Dark-Skinned Black Women Just Want To Be Able Attract More Men
Ugh. Those who reiterate this line of belief seem to truly believe that every woman’s life entirely revolves around men and whether or not we’re attracting enough of them. Never mind the fact that women have more to worry about than our looks and how men conceive of us. First of all, speaking up about colorism in an effort to hold men accountable for placing lighter-skinned women on a pedestal, IS a valid effort and worthy complaint. But, let’s assume it wasn’t a worthy complaint. Even in that case, dark-skinned black women would still have a right to mention colorism because it’s not just an issue that affects our love lives, but every single part of our day-to-day lives.
The truth is, the majority of women talking and speaking up about colorism aren’t consumed over how many men they’re attracting, but instead, on the multiple ways colorism affects our quality of life. From our livelihoods and pay brackets, to the epidemic of low self-esteem among darker-skinned adolescents, to the unfair expectations that society places on black women to be invincible, immune to pain and “strong”—colorism plays a role in all of it. For example, dark-skinned black women are often shunned in the entertainment industry, meaning there are a whole wealth of jobs that are almost completely inaccessible to us simply due to our skin tones.
So the next time you hear somebody speaking up about colorism, don’t assume they’re just looking for more male attention. They’re speaking out about a systemic force of oppression that affects every part of their life. It’s high time people (the black community, in particular) began to pay more attention to the complaints of dark-skinned black women.
Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.