Over the recent months there has been increased debates and conversations about colorism on social media platforms, with the most recent prominent being TikTok.
There seems to be no specific TikTok that spawned this discussion but rather a result of the BLM protests that happened earlier last year. Many Black and POC creators have been making more and more videos about the systemic injustices faced online and offline. The biggest discussion surrounding colorism is the privilege held with those deemed to be “light skin”. There are three categories used to identify skin color: “dark skin,” “light skin” and “brown skin.”
“Light skins” are given privilege on the basis of being closer to the white standard compared to their darker skinned counterparts. Lighter skin people are treated more nicely and get more roles. They are the most prominent faces of society as shown with celebrities like Zendaya, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey.
“I believe that colorism is prominent because of the media,” said Ariel Barber. “There are influential stars calling darkskin women monkeys, and light skin men calling them undesirable. It’s cool to have a ton of lightskins with weaves in the background of music videos, but unheard of to have a woman of rich skin and natural hair, pop up for 1 second. Because the idea that disseminated the white patriarchal standard of beauty still holds true today, that tells women and men and color that they will inevitably be defined by their race, even within their own communities.”
This conversation expanded to outside social media with many videos calling out common tropes in general media and the mixed-light skin actors and actresses who play them.
“I have lost opportunities to partake in modeling gigs and acting roles because my skin was too dark.” said Oluwatoyosi Fowowe. “I have been bullied and called names like “monkey” and “charcoal” because of my deeply melanated skin tone. My mother has purchased bleaching lotions for me so that I can become lighter and “more acceptable” in society.”
On the other hand, many debates were spawned about the term “brown skin”. Some believe it was a perfect term to use as they don’t face the same privilege as “light skins” but nor the same oppression as “dark skins”. The opposing viewpoint is that many people who label themselves as “brown skin” are doing it to seperate themselves from being called “dark skin” and that it’s a colorist term in of itself.
No matter where you stand on this debate, in order to truly combat colorism, a deep understanding of its impacts need to be promoted. Conversations and explorations of the topic should continue until even more people are educated and informed. Then the bias and stereotypes can be broken down one by one.
“We as a disenfranchised, and sensible people need to promote love and strength within our own communities, ” said Ariel Barber. “ and disregard the nonsensical as well as defunct standards of beauty that determine our relevance, our voice and our beauty. We need to understand that we’re beautiful in our own skin, not in the coat of white fur that society loves to offer us.”