Colorism is a Big Problem in America

Onyx Contributor:  Johnny Silvercloud (@JohnnySilverclo)

In early April 2015, someone broke the internet on ranting about Kendrick Lamar’s woman.  This was a dark skinned woman ranting on the fact that Kendrick Lamar’s woman is light-skinned, thus, he cannot be a “conscious rapper”.  Before we address this misguided soul, we have to take a look at colorism.

Looking at Colorism

I remember being a boy in school when I first came into contact with colorism.  I think I might have been 14 years old when I first heard of a preference based on skin tone.

“I don’t like light-skinned boys.”

“I don’t like dark-skinned boys.”

As a kid I understood racism on the dating scene; perhaps the white girl is afraid of what “daddy” thinks.  Her family will shit bricks, got it.  As a youth I never understood colorism; we are all black to begin with, so it’s not like you have to worry about what your family thinks.

As a child I never evaluated how this effects women, but I did notice that darker skinned girls tend to get the booty-end of the stick when it comes to who society deems beautiful or not.  While white people can take these things for granted forever, persons of color may have a severe problem on how their beauty is never represented enough, or done properly.  Because of white defaultness (which uses “white” as the human template for, well, everything), people of color engage in Colorism.  The assumption of whiteness as “default human” isn’t new; Crayola used to have what’s now known as the color “peach” as “flesh” until 1962 — when the Civil Rights movement kicked in.  In India, where the majority of people are NOT white-looking, their parallel coloring company called Hindustan Pencils named the Caucasian flesh-tone color “skin”.  Interestingly, colorism doesn’t need white people to command and control it for it’s a world wide phenomenon which predates America and most civilizations.  India’s case with colorism is almost worthy of it’s own article itself, but, we are going to stick with America’s unique issue here.

Colorism disadvantages dark-skinned people, while privileging those with lighter skin.  This is technically a form of racism, the only differentiating factor being that it’s usually internal within a single race.  This is so closely tied to racism, some people within it advocate splitting a race into two or more new ones.  And because this is related to racism, this should be fought against just as hard as basic institutional racism itself.

Colorism is a system that mirrors white supremacy in that those with lighter skin are awarded privileges their dark-skinned counterparts aren’t — strictly based on skin tone.  What created America’s colorism?  In the United States’ colorism has it’s roots from the institution of American slavery.  Slave-owners typically gave preferential treatment to slaves with lighter complexions.  While dark-skinned slaves worked the harder labors outdoors, their light-skinned counterparts usually worked indoors on domestic tasks.  Slave-owners were partial to light-skinned slaves because they were often technically family members.  Slave-owners frequently engaged in sexual intercourse with slave women, and light-skinned offspring were the telltale signs of these unions.  While many light skinned blacks were not considered true sons and daughters of the white slavers, they received second-class citizen treatment within the plantations, which was still far better than the darker slaves in the field.  So after a while, having lighter skin became an asset in American society, which it still stands today.

Colorism’s Ultimate Goal:  Passing

There was a time when America took special care in tracking skin tone differences.  Quadroon, octoroon and quintroon are nearly archaic terms but still are a reminder of how much effort was involved with colorism.  Colorism is so prevalent in American history (and even today) that you have the concept of “passing”, meaning, you are so light-skinned you can “pass” for white.

The backfire effect of this colorism is the varying degrees at which the darker toned persons loathe the lighter skinned.  It is very possible for a light skinned person to be victimized by this problem.  The light-skinned in return, begins to loathe the darker toned, maybe even begin to internalize the superiority complex bestowed by white supremacy European Colonialism.  The problem with this in-fighting is the fact that the light-skinned person should NOT be who the darker toned are mad at; they should be mad at the system which created this madness, not the person within arm’s reach.  The light skinned shouldn’t internalize Afrophobic tendencies towards the darker toned; again, they should find quarrel with the institutionalized racist ideologies that pitted them against each other in the first place.

 To those who Rant About This Stuff in Relationships

To those like the “dark skinned activist” Rashida Marie Strober who suggests that a conscious black fellow cannot be conscious if he has a light-skinned woman at his side… at that point, I’ll have to wonder if this woman is Tommy Sotomayor’s sister.  Both worry about who’s dating who regarding race and color.  I find it interesting how a dark skinned woman like herself seeks to invalidate other black women, and black men for selecting black women who aren’t her.

Here’s the deal regarding interracial (or varying colored?) dating, mating, and marriage:  Stop Caring.  It doesn’t matter what color or race that other person is, because regardless of the matter, that famous person isn’t dating YOU.  I’m sorry sugar, but a “lookalike” still isn’t you.  Worry about who YOU are fucking by all means.  Don’t worry about who someone else, far away from ever picking your ass up, who has their heart.  In addition, it is very possible for a man to marry a light-skinned (or even a white) woman and still be hyper-cognizant of the trials and tribulations of what darker black women go through.  It’s not like wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey with a Redskin’s starter cap.  It’s not like being a Blood and Crip at the same time; it’s not a zero-sum game.

A person doesn’t have to be emerged in the thing they are talking about to have a concern for it.  Tim Wise doesn’t have to live in a black neighborhood to be conscious of white superiority.  You don’t have to live in Nigeria to be conscious of the socio-political strife there.  You don’t have to live in Ancient Rome to be Christian and you don’t have to have a dark skinned wife to be conscious of dark skinned issues.

With that said, I NEVER cared about black women dating white guys.  Never bothered me.  Why? Because whether she’s dating Chad or Tyrone, she still isn’t with my ass.  That being said, I don’t expect anyone to care about who I choose to be with.

Look, I get it; Eurocentricity got everyone’s heads all fucked up.  Sure.  Seen the game, got the t-shirt.  But we should be, in this day and age, a whole lot smarter than to create division amongst ourselves.  Black is Black.  

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