On Colorism

I’ve been reading a novel recently called “The Vanishing Half,” and it is really good. I couldn’t put it down today, what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I’m only about halfway through, but so far it covers a multitude of topics, the biggest one being colorism.

As a dark-skinned black woman, I have of course been plagued by this phenomenon my whole life. If you don’t know what it is, colorism is “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” In this novel, the main characters are from a town where lightness is highly valued, almost to an excessive degree. They have it in their heads that the lighter they can get while still maintaining their blackness, the more perfect they will be. The crazy thing is that these towns really did/do exist. I remember meeting a girl a couple of years ago on another semi-job who came from a long line of these kinds of thinkers. Her family was from a small town in New Jersey. So, it kind of took me off guard to read about this other town in Louisiana with the same ideals.

Of course, after I sat with it for a little while, I realized that of course these towns are everywhere, this thinking is everywhere. In most cultures colorism is alive and well. The black community is at least doing some work to try and rethink some of these white supremacist ideals that have been forced on us, but there is a lot of work to be done. I grew up in a town that had a high Latinx population, and I was called dark on a regular basis. If you watched “Indian Matchmaker” on Netflix, you probably noticed her praising clients for their “fairness.” Colorism is everywhere, and at this point, I’m not sure if there will be an end to it in my life time.

I spent a lot of my youth being called dark and hating it, as does one of the main characters in the novel, Jude. It took me a while to realize that 1. I’m not blacker than tar. I really thought that. 2. If I was, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Because I really thought that too. Black isn’t ugly. Being dark isn’t any less beautiful. Now, I love my skin. I love how brown it is, and I think it is beautiful. I think that all skin is beautiful. I think that we need more people to look at their own skin and love it, then look at their neighbors and love that too.

And, because it will only help, stream “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyonce/Blue Ivy. That song honestly makes me cry almost every time I hear it.


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