Colorism in Black Communities


Begai Prom, Staff writer


Throughout the world, in different countries and communities, race ties in strongly with the concept of beauty. Similarly, it seems as though, the more melanin present in our skin the less beautiful we are. I see this both in racism – discrimination based on race – and in colorism – discrimination based on skin tone. Don’t get me wrong, beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder. Where I draw the line however is when ignorance seeps its way into comments made by others. Black culture came from years and years of oppression and inequality. We had no choice but to submit to the idea that because of our skin color, we were inferior. 152 years into the abolishment of slavery, have we really progressed? Is colorism still prominent and if so, is it prominent in black communities as well?


Like many of black people’s struggles, the lightskin vs. darkskin stereotype finds its roots in the time period of slavery. When white slave owners engaged in sexual affairs (i.e. rape and sexual assault) with their female slaves, they were often impregnated. These half- white, half-black babies were treated better than the other black slaves. Slave owners felt that because the girls had a bit of white in them, they were simply better. As a result, they were chosen as house slaves while the darker skinned slaves worked the fields. This unfair pyramid of perceived beauty served as the foundation for society as it is today (Zadeh).


Around two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a fellow African; his views on the hierarchy of beauty shocked me. He stated that the general consensus on attractiveness (from most to least) is latinas, mixed girls, white girls then dark skinned girls. Firstly, why is there even a hierarchy? Secondly, why are my beautiful chocolate women at the end of this list? Keep in mind that these words came from a black man…boy actually.  Yes, I am most definitely throwing shade.


In another conversation with a group of males, it was brought to my attention that apparently the black boys want to have mixed babies so they will have nice hair. Why is mixed hair equivalent to nice hair? And why is 4C hair not beautiful? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the woman that gave birth to these black boys….is black. Granted, it would be unfair of me to base my opinions on a few conversations I’ve had with black men. However, it is completely sad that these conversations took place in the first place. Beauty is such a touchy subject and there is a fine line between being ignorant and having “a type.” Everyone is entitled to a physical attraction for whomever they choose. It becomes a problem when these opinions metamorphosize into rude comments. Did you really think I wouldn’t mention the infamous “You’re pretty for a black girl” comment? That is NOT a compliment. When people say that, they are implying that black women are ugly in general but the girl in question is an exception. Its implying that she would be prettier with lighter skin.


Part of me can’t blame these boys for this tainted view of beauty. What choice do they have when their minds are being polluted with media portrayals of black women? The modelling industry has to be the most discriminating industry I can think of. Models are supposed to be the most beautiful women on earth but scarcely do you find a black women in a magazine or on a runway. Another example is music videos nowadays that feature several beautiful women, but often only consist of light skin and/or white girls.


Makeup brands also promote the idea that black women are not beautiful. There is a small range of product shades for women, those of which do not cater to dark skinned girls. I guess black girls don’t deserve makeup. When these companies do finally make products that match our skin tones they are named things like “blackest black” or “nighttime black.” Yet, we still question the motives of our youth when they want to bleach their skin or avoid the sun at any cost.


We as black people need to stop discrimination, especially towards our own kind. All it is doing is putting a strain on our progress. We claim to be moving forward but I don’t see that being possible when we haven’t even solved problems within our own communities. We want equality but we are not willing to give each other the same. We fail to understand that beauty comes in all shades and it is unfair to generalize beauty to races and associate it with genes. We’ve fought long and hard to rid ourselves of any segregation, let’s not do it to each other.


Zadeh, Elica. “Lightskin vs Darkskin: Where It All Started.” Voice [UK], National ed., 26 Mar. 2014, Opinion
Accessed 25 Feb. 2017.