Colorism: The Light Versus Dark Skin Debate in the Black Community is Detrimental

Spike Lee's 1988 film School Daze dealt with issues of Colorism

Spike Lee’s 1988 film School Daze dealt with issues of Colorism/ Photo credit: The Visibility Project

Skin tone has had its detriments in the black community for centuries, dating back to the slavery days. Even though colorism has had negative effects on many cultures globally, African Americans still to this day, separate and classify themselves by skin color. This type of thinking is keeping us bound in the same system that separated and oppressed us to begin with.

For those who don’t know, classifying slaves by skin color was one of the methods used and taught by slave owner Willie Lynch to cause division between slaves making them easier to control. Of course with light skin being more desirable, Slaves with lighter skin (most of them being decedents of the slave owners family) worked in the big house, while darker slaves worked in the fields and were given the harder work tasks. By doing this, slaves were conditioned to believe that being attractive, smart and having any chance at being successful lay within having lighter skin. It also fostered division between people of color, making them turn against each other when in reality they were all victims to the same oppressive system.

“For those who don’t know, classifying slaves by skin color was one of the methods used and taught by slave owner Willie Lynch to cause division between slaves making them easier to control.”

In the 150 plus years following the end of slavery, African Americans still deal with division in our homes, relationships and in our communities. A lot of it steaming from the light skin versus dark skin debate. Most people that participate in this debate don’t even know that this type of thinking stems directly from slavery. Colorism had had an effect on many cultures globally. From skin bleaching in India, to racism towards those with darker skin in china, the idea that those with light skin are superior to those with dark skin is rooted in white supremacy.

Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions

When I witness black people avoiding the sun because they don’t want to become darker or giving certain traits to light skin or dark skin people I ask myself, do you know the root of your learned thoughts and behaviors? Because these ideas were taught! I wonder do they see the division it causes between us as a people and the continuous harm that it causes in our community. African Americans are a very diverse community. We come in a multitude of different colors, tones, textures and shades. We live in a nation that oppresses us all regardless of if we are light or dark. Black people need to start loving themselves not based on their shade. The strength that we can have as a unified people excites me! But first we must dead the light and dark debate and unite. Our progression is counting on it.

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Paris Pace
Paris Pace

Class of 2014 Central Michigan graduate. Lover of reading and writing poetry. I enjoy the simple things.

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