By Raziya Estes
Colorism is one of the most harmful and prevalent issues affecting Black people in the United States. Merriam-Webster defines colorism as: prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. In other words, a person closer to whiteness in society will be treated better in society. Which means as much as colorism exists, so does featurism and “texturism”. All three play a part in how Black men and women can be negatively viewed.
Growing up, I never saw enough dark skinned women with 4C hair represented within the media. It was constantly isolating to see white women in the spotlight, while Black women were portrayed as “the help”. The type of media we consume while growing up has a major impact. Therefore, only seeing white or light-skinned women as something to look up to wasn’t healthy for my self-esteem. I grew up constantly questioning my worth, and thought I could never reach the standard the world wanted me to reach. When I hear Black boys telling me they “prefer light skins” over dark, it also makes me question my worth within my own community. I can remember purposely avoiding the sun to not get tan. I celebrated the coming of winter, when I would be my lightest. I wanted to be perceived as beautiful, but my view of beauty was distorted.
I think that many people do not understand the roots of colorism. Historically, it stems from slavery. Narda Kareem Nittle addresses the roots of colorism in her article, ‘What is Colorism?’: “Enslavers typically gave preferential treatment to enslaved people with fair complexions. While dark-skinned enslaved people toiled outdoors in the fields, their light-skinned counterparts usually worked indoors at far less grueling domestic tasks.”
In other words, depending on how dark your skin was, you would be subjected to harsher treatment. Slavery is undoubtedly one of the most unforgivable acts Black Americans had to endure. But it does give us a reference for why whiteness and the fairness of someone’s skin plays a part in individual hierarchy today. Until society stops idolizing western traits, colorism will continue to exist and damage young dark skinned men and women.
Raziya Estes is a rising sophomore at Palisades HS. She likes philosophy and fashion, and aspires to be psychologist