"You're pretty for a dark-skinned girl!"
This statement is supposedly meant to be a compliment.
That “compliment" is both belittling and insulting but because it is constantly masked as a "compliment" and passed with a big smile (often sarcastic). Black women are made to believe that it's one of the many compliments they are obligated to respond positively to in order to avoid being tagged as harsh (you know the narrative).
Colorism has long been linked to restrictive beauty standards. Those who embrace colorism not only tend to value lighter-skinned people over their dark-skinned counterparts but also view light-skinned people as more intelligent and attractive! Many dark-skinned individuals are torn between proving their worth and maintaining their identity considering how significant racial identity is to our society. That's a lot of work if you ask me and the chances of depression are often inevitable; check previous post on depression here: Depression In The Black Community (meccaimani.com)
If you're black, stay black
If you're brown, stick around
If you're yellow, you're mellow
If you're white, you're all right!
- An old children's rhyme captures the definition of colorism and how it works in a nutshell.
Colorism in the Black Community is not a new concept. The black community is well versed in racism but are often oblivious to Colorism. In racism, people of color can turn to their communities for support but Colorism on the other hand, asides being a divisive form of bias, is the discriminatory treatment given to darker complexioned people from light-skinned African Americans of the same race (interracial Colorism).
Typically, individuals of lighter skin are preferred in the black community, not only is it an issue of preference, but it is also almost a fetish! The stigmas surrounding Colorism and racial favoritism affects our mental health tremendously and prey of the self-esteem of darker-skinned African Americans especially women, thereby causing a feeling of inferiority and extreme self-esteem issues.
- Before I go on; you are beautiful in your skin, flaunt it!
"I desired a lighter skin growing up. I thought having a dark skin made me unattractive" - Keke Palmer
These ideas of wanting to be "accepted" or "beautiful" are relatable and completely normal, however, there should not be standards held to which skin tone is picture perfect or more beautiful. Holding onto these standards are a causal factor of low self-esteem which could invariably lead to depression (Read my previous blogpost on depression here: Depression In The Black Community (meccaimani.com)). Colorism turns intensely personal when it shows up in families, often leading to parents favoring one child over another because of their skin color or fostering sibling rivalry.
We must work together to create a society that teaches us to value our own skin whether light or dark, however we can't completely eradicate colorism, but we can make efforts to deal with its effect on our self-esteem by teaching little girls and boys of the black community to embrace their genetic makeup and to accept themselves without altering their features.
I encourage you to "love that skin you're in", to love every bit of yourself! You'd be shocked at how much this self-love can do to your self-esteem – you are a diamond, shine bright!
Ever experienced self-esteem issues because of your skin tone? Share it with us in the comments section, I would love to hear it!