Dark-Skinned Black Women Speak Out On Colorism
© Illustration by INJECTION, inspired by Sacree Frangine
3 dark-skinned Black women spoke openly about their personal everyday life experiences with colorism.
NO to racism part 2 of 12.
Remember when Kanye West tweeted a casting call for his Yeezy Season 4 runway show, explicitly asking for multiracial women only? Yes, that is colorism. Colorism is the discrimination against people with a darker skin tone. They have to fight prejudice even within their own community, only because of their skin tone. Colorism is a practice, where those with lighter skin are more privileged and perceived as more desirable than darker-skinned individuals. It is a global commonality across cultures, that lighter skin is systematically more privileged. Research has linked the problem with colorism to lower-income wages, lower marriage rates, fewer job opportunities and even longer prison terms for darker-skinned people. Although this concept is centuries-old, it still remains pervasive in the 21st century.
What is the difference between colorism and racism?
Racism is when two people of different races but identical skin colors will be treated differently.
Colorism is when two people of the same race but different skin colors will be treated differently.
We spoke to 3 dark-skinned Black women from the United States, who told us their personal stories in which colorism played a role in their everyday life.
Rhonda, 25, Teacher from Brooklyn, NY, USA Colorism has played a huge role in my life. My first experiences with colorism began when I was a child. There was an older family member who would refer to me as the “mean dark one,” when speaking about me to my mom and grandmother. I was quiet and shy then, so I didn’t understand how I was perceived as mean. I remember every experience in my life where colorism played a role. In middle school, my class was practicing for a performance and someone accidentally turned off the lights. One of the boys in my class yelled, “Where’s Rhonda?” I laughed it off because I didn’t know how to advocate for myself, and I didn’t believe that I was worth being advocated for.
I hated high school. I loved learning, and I even was the only Black student to graduate in the top 10% of my class. Despite my success in school, I hated going. An overwhelming majority of the boys at my school either liked white girls, light-skinned girls or racially ambiguous girls. I fit none of those categories. In high school, Black boys were my oppressors. There was a Black boy, I still remember everything about him, who would refer to Black girls, specifically dark-skinned girls, as “darkies” and “blackies.” Colorism is a huge issue in communities of color, but it is often overlooked and those who are negatively impacted by it, experience invalidation when we share our stories. I hope that people educate themselves more on colorism, validate those who experience it, and empower people to share their stories.
Naomi, 25, Make-up Artist from Silver Spring, MD, USA
My experience with colorism has been an up and down ride, but in the end, I’ve learned how to truly love my dark skin. I remember realizing that girls that look like me are typically undesired or disrespected at a young age and now that I’m older I see that we’re still undesirable and disrespected only now we’re overly sexualized as well. I’ve been made to feel like women with lighter skin are better. I’ve been made to feel like I should be proud of being “the first dark skin girl” a guy has ever dated by none other than dark skin men.
Since I began doing make-up I learned how beautiful my skin actually is and how we dark skin women glow especially in the sun. I’ll never allow anyone to make me feel like I am less than or not beautiful due to their own biases and self-hatred for themselves.
Ebere, 18, Freshman College Student from Antioch, CA, USA
Growing up as a dark-skinned Black girl in today's society is hard for many reasons. For one, I am a Black girl and people expect me to carry the "Black girl stereotype" and when I don't, they are surprised and I am considered "whitewashed". Another reason is, I am dark-skinned and that also comes with negative stereotypes of being "bitter", "angry" and "ugly". I didn't start to realize these negative things until I got into middle school where I became more socially aware of how colorism is deeply embedded into the world. I would hear how people (specifically black guys) say things like "dark-skinned girls are ugly" or "I only date light-skinned or mixed girls.
Hearing these comments would make me think, am I ugly just because of my skin tone? There would be a lot of times where I thought boys would never want to date me because "I'm too dark" or they "don't date dark skin girls" and to be honest I am still building the confidence not to think that way. Now that I am 18 and more confident in my deeply melanated skin, I know that being a dark-skinned girl is not a curse but truly a blessing that I used to be ashamed of. There were many times where I wanted to be light-skinned or mixed so I wouldn't have to deal with my 4c hair. I wanted to have "good hair". When I look back on all this, I thought of the ignorance and the opinions of other self-hating people, what was considered beautiful. Now I have learned (and in some ways, I am still learning) that self-love as a dark-skinned Black girl is a journey and it may come sooner for others. Many dark-skinned girls may not realize their beauty until they are older.
But I am here writing this, telling all dark-skinned women and girls that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE NOT JUST PRETTY FOR A DARK-SKINNED GIRL. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL PERIOD. I think it's very important to advocate for dark-skinned women/ girls and as a dark-skinned young woman myself, I know what it's like to be broken down by your peers because of your dark skin complexion. I want the next generation of dark-skinned girls coming up to know that they are beautiful. Don’t give your precious energy to colorist people, protect your energy and stay positive and encouraged!