We must address colorism head-on

Photo Submitted by the Columnist Aaliya Rashad.

Through social media, black millennials have begun placing greater emphasis on black self-awareness and not internalizing hateful ideologies. However, in order for the black community to reclaim a positive self-image, we must address colorism head-on.

Black empowerment movements have exploded onto big and silver screens across the nation.

Black representation is still inaccurate in Hollywood. It is obvious that the range of blackness displayed on the big screen is not proportional to the range of blackness seen in society.

Despite the increasing diversity in film, many black girls aren’t seeing actresses who look like them enough. Disproportionately placing lighter skinned women in lead roles proves Hollywood’s agenda to maintain Whiteness.

 In TVOne’s “Martin,” for example, light-skinned Gina was always depicted as the more attractive and intelligent friend. Dark-skinned Pam was written as the less attractive, ghetto counterpart.

This is not to say that light-skinned women are to take the blame, but rather the producers and casting agents who refuse to cast young dark women in big screen movie roles need to be held accountable.

It is high time the movie entertainment world starts making a better effort at being more inclusive when it comes to people of color.

For hundreds of years, colorism has continued to exist in and out of America. Slave owners used the paper bag test to turn African Americans against one another. Light-skinned slaves did nuanced work while dark-skin slaves did hard labor.

In 1712, Willie Lynch, a British slave owner, said in a speech, “Distrust is stronger than trust and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.”

Blue Vein Societies appeared in the late 1800s where acceptance was determined if they could see one’s blue veins through their skin.

Blackface soon became popular starting in the 1920s, encouraging the imbecilic belief that dark skin was ugly and beastly and light skin represented beauty and elegance.

HBCUs participated in colorism as well. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Kaela Moore, a sophomore at Florida A&M University, said: “From what I see, colorism doesn’t really seem like a huge issue on FAMU’s campus. It seems as if darker women are actually praised more for their beauty.”  

Despite the challenges people of color still continue to go through, the opening of diverse acting roles is happening today more than ever. But for this positive trend to continue, people must stop conforming to the same norms. Shows like “Love and Hip Hop” and “Basketball Wives” may be entertaining, but they feed into the stereotypes in regard to the black community.

Colorism doesn’t just affect the perception of skin tone, it affects livelihood. A law professor at Vanderbilt University conducted a study of over 2,000 immigrants from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned on average 8-15 percent more than similarly qualified immigrants of darker hues. Smaller incomes, lower marriage rates, longer prison sentences, and fewer job prospects are all problems faced by victims of colorism. Society must realize that this deeply embedded issue has to be resolved from the inside out if we truly want to see significant change.