In light of recent events with the #blacklivesmatter movement colourism is something that the B2A Ladies and I had a discussion about during the week. Did you know that Colourism is also a form of racism?
It leaves you with scars and painful memories of a time that you were made to feel less than because of something as ordinary as skin colour. But this isn’t about racism as we generally know it, this is about colourism – the internalisation of racism within communities of colour. Colourism in our communities it is not only manifested through anti-Black and anti-Indigenous attitudes, but also cooptation of Black and Indigenous movements to the benefit of lighter skinned (in most cases)
Colourism. It. Is. EVERYWHERE in our culture. From the time we are children, we are praised or tutted at simply because of our physical features. He’s light skinned, you’ll have such cute babies, or, your daughter is so pretty, but she’s so dark. I have heard many stories this week of dark skinned girls who have spent many a night in the shower, scrubbing herself furiously with skin whitening soap, willing it to make themselves a little lighter, wearing contact lenses so their eyes where a little greener, putting many chemicals in their hair to be a little more straighter.
Two documentaries to watch to get a deeper insight into colourism is Light Girls and Dark Girls, (Available on the Oprah Winfrey Network) it opens up a much needed conversations about experiences of internalising racism that particularly Black women face. Of course colourism as well as The Red Table Talk Episode on Colourism (available on Facebook Watch). It isn’t just a Black issue, it is the consequence to communities of colour everywhere that Whiteness and the West has dominated and hegemonised. Within many communities it is seen as the lighter you are, the closer you are to White, the better you are. Of course people don’t say it so explicitly, (just as much as here in the UK racism is not as explicit as it is in the USA) but that is essentially at the heart of colourism. From interpersonal relationships to beauty to encounters with the law, there is a very real consequence to colourism that is observable. Often, however, it is implied that only people who have darker complexions have negative experiences of colourism. But it is not quite so simple. People with lighter complexions often have to “prove” their culture and colour to their community. And often do so by overcompensating in attitude and interests, feeling like they could never be dark enough for their community or light enough for what the global media tells them is desirable.
What we need is an individual and societal spiritual revolution. There is no other solution to racism or colorism than ultimately removing Whiteness from privilege; removing its power. As one woman in the former documentary said, “You can’t love each other when you are at war with each other.” And when we are not at war with each other, we are at war with not only the person in the mirror, but the society that tells black people and women of colour that they are less than.