Fetishizing of Light Skin People

Stephen Randall, Staff Writer

As defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary, colorism is prejudice or discrimination, especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. Many don’t realize the impact of colorism or even the signs of colorism in today’s society. However, it is prevalent in our everyday life; we see it in our media, in our daily interactions, and lastly, in our widely expected norm of what beauty is. I believe that the continuation of colorism has set a precedent of light skin culture and the favoring of “light skin” people over “dark skin” people. 

 

To understand why this precedent of favoring fairer people of color was set, we need to look back into imperialism. Flashback to the creation of America and European powers at the height of their ruling with slavery in full effect as a means of building and growing America. An integral part of keeping Black people as slaves was this mentality that their skin was inferior to white people’s, and this notion set a precedent that the fairer you are or the closer you are to being white, the better. This harmful way of thinking has followed us into the present day, and we continue to see it in media every day. For instance, according to a CNN article by Faith Karimi this past November, the movie Harriet was released, and the screenwriter reported that a Hollywood executive had once seriously suggested casting Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman. For those of you who are unaware, Harriet Tubman was a pioneer and led countless number of slaves to freedom; she was also African American. Julia Roberts, however, is a white actress. The executive knew that by choosing a white actress that the film would be perceived better, his reasoning being, “It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference”

We see this precedent emphasized in the modern day dating scene. Speaking specifically on the topic of Black women, “dark” skin Black women are statistically less likely to get married than light skin Black women and this is heavily attributed to the lack of desire amongst eligible partners for a dark skinned woman. For instance, 55% of light-skin women are married while only 23% of dark skin women are married. For darker skinned people comments like “ They’re too ethnic”, or “You’re attractive for dark skin” are not an anomaly. In my experience people tend to write you off for the complexion of your skin or find it shocking that you’re attractive enough to defy their preconceived standard of beauty. It’s demoralizing and dehumanizing to be disregarded for something as trivial as skin color and it’s deeply seeded in western culture. 

Along with trauma, slavery has left behind with it harmful precedents, one of which is colorism that has divided black people within our community and outside our community and further sets up a system of oppression. People to this day one-hundred and fifty five years later are still subconsciously following the ideology that the lighter the skin the better.