The Effects of Colorism on Young Black Women

By Mariah Perkins and Asha Kent, 12th grade

Colorism affects young women of color all around the world. Here are two student perspectives:

Hello, My name is Mariah Perkins and I am 17 years old. I have experienced colorism many times in my life. I grew up in a house where my step-sibling was treated better because of her skin tone. This made me dislike myself at times and even wish that I was lighter or born to at least one white parent. While in middle school, people were very concerned about skin tones for some reason. Some students would express their dislike towards darker women and how they only wanted to date or be intimate with women with lighter skin. A while back I was speaking to someone who claimed that they “don’t even like black bitches.” They continued to express their distaste for women who had darker skin. After this, they expressed how they liked me even though I was darker. This made me feel extremely uncomfortable as a woman with darker skin. It made no sense to me how someone’s skin tone could be equivalent to their beauty. I have noticed the impact of colorism on children as well. While having conversations with my younger sister she has expressed how she feels that being lighter or even white is better. This saddens me because I wish she could see the beauty in her pigmented skin. There were times when she preferred to play with lighter Barbies or even made her character on games like Roblox have lighter skin. There are so many other examples of colorism in the world and especially in media but that would be too much to write. I would like to close off by saying that even though I have had these experienced and witnessed these things, I wouldn’t change my skin tone for all the money in the world. I wish other people would feel the same way too. All skin is good skin.

Hi! My name is Asha Kent. I am 17 years old, based out of South Central Los Angeles. Throughout my youth, I’ve dealt with my fair share of discrimination, ranging from my skin color to my hair texture to my body shape. As a black girl in America, let alone a city like Los Angeles, people love to pick you apart. In elementary school, I can recall a number of times where I was disrespected by my “friends” primarily because I was dark skinned. I would often receive comments like “you too dark” or whenever the teachers turned the lights off, that class clown loved to say “Dang, Where’d Asha go?” As a young girl, comments like this can take a toll on your self esteem. And it doesn’t help that in a lot of media, whether that be news or music, we often hear how lighter skin and looser hair is preferred. Growing up with these mindsets so embedded into my own led me to question my own looks and dedicate myself to altering them. Like so many other girls who look like me, I began comparing myself to my lighter counterparts, wishing I was prettier, and becoming overall unhappy with myself. This continued until middle school. It wasn’t until my 9th grade year of high school, with my change of environment, at a school where being black was appreciated rather than seen as a burden, that I started to grow to love myself.  I am now president of my school’s Black Student Union and also plan on collaborating with a few of my school’s other black organizations, like the Nigerian Student Association and Unapologetically Natural (Natural Hair Club) to further educate my school’s black student body on the issues that we often ignore within the black community and how to work towards them.