Today, I saw this:
Twitter post from @undoalaska.
As a darkskin woman of colour, not only does this hurt, but it brings up a subject that affects many POCs: colourism.
Image from The Power of Melanin blog.
We all know about racism on a grand scale, but colourism is different as it ranks worth within our own minority groups. As most forms of discrimination, the concept connects to the slavery structure of black people with lighter skin tones working in the house while dark-skinned black folks were forced to work in the fields. This mentality of “lightskin vs darkskin” has stuck around for ages and not only in the perception of black people but in our perceptions of ourselves.
Take myself as an example. I have a cousin named Mariah. We were born 8 days apart and we have been best friends ever since.
Photo of baby Brooke and Mariah from my mother’s photo album.
We’ve grown up together and share many similar personality traits so to me, Mariah and I were the same on so many levels. However, as we grew older, I learned that we were different. Not in who we were, but in how the world perceived us.
Photo of Mariah and I as cute little beach babes from my mother’s photo album.
It started off as little things such as people saying “no way, you’re related! She doesn’t look anything like you” but then insisting that Mariah was related to our light-skinned family friend instead to the compliments of Mariah’s beautiful curly hair, but never my braids. It hurt most when we were in middle school and it felt like so many boys were interested in Mariah and I wondered why I wasn’t getting that same attention. This made a part of me resent her. I decided to ask one of my other cousins at a family gathering and he said “well, a lot of people just aren’t into dark skin girls. I know I only want to be with a lightskin.” And it crushed me (just to rub some salt to the wound, this has actually been empirically proven in one study now).
Image of a 2014 OkCupid user data article from the Narialand Forum.
Now, I’ve grown to love myself and my skin tone. So what I leave you all with is to understand preference vs prejudice. I still get the occasional “I’m just not into black girls,” but that doesn’t make me turn against my lightskin sisters in the black community and most importantly, I refuse to let it make me turn against myself.
Image of Mariah and I, all grown up at prom from my Facebook album.