colourism in the community: when skinship ain’t kinship

Life of a Black Girl

Today, I saw this:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Image of Mariah and I, all grown up at prom from my Facebook album.

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5 thoughts on “colourism in the community: when skinship ain’t kinship

  1. First things first: I’m squealing over adorable baby Brooke pictures!! I want to thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your personal experience with colourism and how it has personally impacted you. It’s impossible to not tie colourism with a history of classism as a result of racism and racial mixing alongside beauty standards that have been predominantly white or white-adjacent (or exotic, as many like to say, which is a discussion in itself), but I love that you’ve approached the subject in a constructive and educational way.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m so happy you shared this story. It’s unbelievable how much colourism dominates the way people see themselves and the labels that people put on them. What’s alarming is how much it’s affecting our youth. Horrendous tweets like the one you shared at the beginning can easily influence someone into changing their appearance to feel socially accepted. I love how strong you are with you’re refusal to let prejudice affect you, lessons like these need to be shared to everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. WOW. Thank you for sharing this Brooke. Reading things like this breaks my heart, and while I’m incredibly happy you have grown to be confident and love yourself, it still pains me to see people tweet things like that when it can so clearly hurt people. Black, white, asian, or anything in between: people need to stay in their lane and call their “preference” for what it really is: racism. Thank you for shining light on this issue that many people, especially those outside of minority groups, probably don’t pay as much mind to. You are beautiful and forget the basic trash tweeting garbage like that.

    Like

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