Color me surprised because I didn’t think colorism still had such a grip on Black communities. My sole issue with colorism was white media’s representation of Blackness as only light skin with curly hair. But I thought that within our community — a community I love and cherish — we were smarter and better prepared for one of the oldest divide and conquer tactics wielded by white supremacy.
Colorism — or the method of treating lighter skin folks more favorably than darker skin folk — quite literally started on the plantation. White slave masters, viewing slaves as property and unworthy of human civility and respect, were raped, thus creating a mixed-raced mulatto class. These children, given their proximity to whiteness, were still viewed as property, but were given slightly more privileges than darker slaves.
As a means of survival, Black slaves soon embraced the belief that lighter skin was a means to a better life, a notion fueled by white racists who sought to quell camaraderie amongst the growing Black population. This belief, growing in hostility between generations, took a germinal life of its own in Black communities.
Soon, paper bag tests were used as a method of Black exclusion. Those with skin lighter than a brown paper bag gained entry to Black social clubs, fraternities, and sororities. Relative social gatherings for dark skin Black folk were created in response.
The tension between light skin and dark skin Blacks continued to grow, especially as white media opened some opportunities to white-passing light skinned Black entertainers. The European standard of beauty also aided in this tension. Given the patriarchal environment, where woman were valued on their looks, light skinned and dark skinned Black women were most vulnerable.
And here we are today. Where faux-revolutionaries and Black folk trapped in mental slavery, shout past each other in a divisive attempt to buy in to a barely-guised white supremacist tool.
Very rarely do I write about colorism (because I don’t buy in to it, and it doesn’t deserve my labor), but yesterday I published an article about Dark Girl Trauma; that agony particular to dark girls in a society that views our skin as valueless. It was a loose follow-up to this piece, where I examined pro-Blackness within interracial relationships. Both pieces were (thankfully) well received, but I did get some backlash.
Both my dark skin and my agency to speak on Dark Girl Trauma were challenged because I don’t appear dark enough in my pictures. With natural sunlight and no filter (and like … physics), my skin appears lighter. Apparently, that’s not good enough, and is indicative of a mystical self-hate that I do not possess.
Light skin Black women reached out to me to express their appreciation. Some even offered the idea of Light Girl Trauma, that particular pain of being picked on and bullied by dark skinned Black women who thought them stuck-up.
I usually discredit privileged folks who think they suffer from discrimination. But I had to pause. Because honestly, I know I’ve held and acted on prejudices against light skin Sisters, namely my cousin who I was raised with for close to 20 years. Fortunately, with my reaffirmation of pro-Blackness and Black Love, we’re closer than we’ve ever been.
And sometimes, I still have my visceral suspicions. When I see light skin Black revolutionaries in racial justice spaces, I quell that minimal resentment. And, in love and selflessness, my light skin Sisters courageously voice that they hold an emblem of privilege — that their vocal radicalism is better received because of their lighter skin. And then we get back to work with this truth and honesty in mind.
The Traumas are uneven, but both are valid.
I find it odd, interesting, and sad that colorism is most beholden to Black women. But I get it. Colorism is a function of both racism and patriarchy. Racism and patriarchy are both interweaving systems of white supremacy. And Black women — the most harmed, vulnerable, and targeted of these systems — bear the brunt.
And I wish it would just stop because it’s futile. Even in writing this, I’m frustrated and annoyed that colorism, literally a visibly bold form of white supremacy, still reverberates so soundly.
We gotta start healing y’all. Quickly. Dark skinned Black girls who hate or distrust their light skin Sisters need healing. I know I needed it, and I got it, and I’m happier and stronger than I’ve ever been.
Light skinned Black girls who think they’re better than their dark skinned Sisters … get over yourself. You’re not. And to devalue a Black body speaks to your mental slavery and spiritual weakness. Do better. Heal. Grow. Learn.
Light skinned Sisters who recognize the limited privilege they hold … speak up. It’s always up to the privileged sect to change the system.
All Black people … remember the enemy. It’s white supremacy, and it deserves our unwavering, unrelenting attention. And please, for the love of Black Jesus, let’s not pass this colorism bullshit to our children.
This is all I have for now. I’m mentally exhausted trying to string together all my thoughts on this ridiculous issue. I didn’t get into the global elements of colorism because …no. I didn’t analyze men — both Black and otherwise — who buy in to colorism because … ugh. And I’m sure, when I revisit this post in a few weeks, I’ll develop new opinions and insight.
But for now, all I know is my family. We literally come in different shades, hair types, eye colors, etc. And we’re all beautiful. We’re all strong. And it is with this personal experience, that I write.
*Feature Image Credit: www.afamcolorism.tumblr.com
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