by Nzinga Muhammad
While white people are getting ready to tan in the sun this summer, there are some black people who have unfortunately been warned from a young age to not get “too dark”. There are many little black children who have learned this self hatred, and walk around with a mentality that the darker you are, the “uglier” you are. This is part of colorism. Colorism, usually within a racial or ethnic group, is discrimination and prejudice based on the idea that the lighter you are, the more “acceptable” you are.
The separation between skin color within communities of color is damaging. For black people, it goes all the way back to slavery and brown paper bag tests. The lighter you were, the easier it was for you to “pass” in society, meaning be white to receive the same privileges as white people. We don’t necessarily have brown paper bag tests anymore, but that same
White supremacy has done such damage onto black people, that you sometimes don’t need a white person to tell you that your dark skin is ugly. In fact, many of them are the main ones who are ready to switch places with you. Within the black community, if a white person expresses their racism, it gives us black folks bigger reason to beam with pride about being black. But the sting hurts differently when it’s another black person.
Black parents/guardians play a huge role in this. Some black parents treat their lighter children better than their darker children. There are comments made amongst family like, “You would be prettier if you were lighter,” or, “Thank God your baby isn’t dark!” No one benefits from this behavior. Shaming dark skin should never be a compliment, and no one should take these statements as such. Parents pass down colorism like a sickness, influencing the minds of their children. Then, when it’s not directly the parents, it’s the child’s peers at school.
Bullying is serious and can have long term effects. To talk down on someone with dark skin reveals self hatred, and a deeper problem. Many are teased about their skin and only begin to love themselves while in college or later. Thankfully, there are good parents and guardians who instill pride and appreciation for all shades of melanin in their children, so that they can walk proudly in their skin color regardless to what others say.
To solve colorism is to first address it, and to not reinforce it with our words. Words are extremely powerful, and can either heal or hurt. Don’t talk to black children with disdain for their skin color. Black children do not deserve to be plagued with the impressions of colorism, especially not at an early age.
I hope every black person receives blessed sun-kissed glows, and enough vitamin D for their melanin to pop severely this summer!
(Nzinga Muhammad is based in Rochester, NY. Follow her on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)