Colourism- the ism that has got to go


Quick explanation of colourism:

Ok so many people write about colourism- and colourism is rubbish in every single way. How on earth can one person be better than another because of the shade of their skin? There’s no way. Makes no sense. It’s all nonsense. And many of us know that, so why do we play into the hands of the ‘colourism agenda’ (yeah I made that up, but it sounds hella academic THE COLOURISM AGENDA)

So we see people tweet #babygoals on pictures of light skinned babies with bright colored eyes. People tell a woman who is going to have a mixed baby how BEAUTIFUL her baby will be and how much they wish they can have a baby like hers and how lucky she is (like Franchesca Ramsey says can you get out of her uterus please). There was also the whole controversy about the casting call for ‘Straight Outta Compton’ where there was the A,B,C and D girls with A being the ‘hottest of the hottest’ and D being ‘poor and not in good shape’. The A girls could be of any race (that’s great right-well???), move on to the B girls who needed to have a ‘small waist, nice hips and be light skinned’, the C girls had to be ‘African American girls medium to dark skin’and then lastly the D girls, who were ‘poor and not in good shape’, had to be ‘African American of medium to dark skin’. So to anyone who may want to argue that colourism is no longer a problem, remember Straight Outta Compton was in cinemas just last year.

Now this hierarchy of ‘the lighter the better’ is prevalent in South Asian, Asian,Latin and Black communities. That is why skin bleaching is such a problem in these communities; Eurocentric standards of beauty and the preferential treatment of lighter skinned slaves in the past still impacts the way we all view each other and it’s sad.

Despite many people being against colourism you will still hear for example a black man say ‘I don’t date black women’ despite being rich in melanin himself, you still see us fawn over light-skinned men and women. How can my friend say a girl went up to him and said ‘I’d lick your eyeballs’ because he is light skinned with light coloured eyes (props to her for being so creative with her weirdness tho). But honestly this fetishsisation of light skinned people to the extent that we can declare that we want to lick them ,and think that’s ok, needs to stop. (I’d lick your eyeballs- please just deep what a strange comment that is whhhaaatttt????) At the end of the day, looking at people as just their skin tone, or eye colour  commodifies them. They’re no longer a whole human, a sum of their parts if you will, rather they are their skin colour, and their ‘nice hair’ and their lickable eyeballs.

Music videos (my love-hate relationship with them continues) are a huge contributing factor to colourism. Often they show an extravagant lifestyle and with the Bugatti’s and Champagne or whatever and there is always a voluptuous light-skinned or racially ambiguous woman twerking in the corner. It’s like we are being taught from a young age that a light skinned woman= success and power. You get a light skinned woman and you are somehow richer for it. And I feel like the problem is so much more prevalent with women too. We can appreciate a black man of any shade whether that’s Drake or Trey Songz or Stormzy, we can see them as talented and funny and appreciate them. Whereas with women, there seems to be an atmosphere where darker skin women have to be like ahem we are here, and we are important too world, whereas light skinned women are often praised and promoted by the media, asked to be the voice of black women and are fetishised by people of all races including their own.

Now, I have a huge problem when people try and pit light skinned people against dark skinned people, or get angry or jealous of those with light skin because division and jealousy doesn’t solve anything. But let us all have a look at ourselves and ask what we are doing to play into the hands of the colourism agenda.
A lot of these ideas that light skin is better (to the extent that so many filters on Snapchat seem to lighten your skin or is that just me???) is something that is taught. When all you see in the media and hear about in songs is how being light skinned is better, when people on social media constantly harp on about the beauty of a light skinned person you absorb these messages. Whether you treat them as gospel or not is a different story.

We can chat about having a ‘preference’ but I don’t think preference means that you can’t appreciate the beauty in everyone and plus mass media and the music industry have a huge influence on your preference (if you have one). For example a friend was telling me how white boys in his school said they would NEVER date a black girl because they ‘don’t like their attitude’ (‘their attitude’ why didn’t anyone tell me ALL black girls are EXACTLY the same- my goodness I had no idea). Now on the surface not wanting to date a black girl could be seen as ‘preference’ but look at their reasoning- that sounds more like being brainwashed by stereotypes and prejudice to me. Stereotypes and prejudice formed from their own experiences and the often simplistic presentation of black women in the media. This is the same thing we see with colourism.

Light skinned people are beautiful, as are people of all skin tones but we need to stop putting them all on a pedestal and then bashing them at the same time. Stop expecting a mixed baby to be a model when she leaves the womb, stop creating derogatory ‘light skinned people behaviours/jokes’ which tend to become self fulfiling prophesies and STOP SINGING SONGS AND RAPPING ABOUT HOW YOU WANT A YELLOW-BONE BECAUSE CHANCES ARE THEY DON’T WANT YOU AND THEY HAVE AN ACTUAL NAME.

Colourism is something that really divides our communities and makes people feel less than. People are made fun of for being ‘blick’ by people who have parents that are blicker than blick. Some South Asian women are told that they won’t get married because they are ‘too dark’. Even little kids adopt these beliefs and I’m so done with it. We should all be done with it.

I don’t face abuse or feel any way about my skin colour because I am not light or dark I just sit in the middle a ‘medium-rare’ black person I suppose. So in a way, I just observe and I am tired of seeing us destroy one another and let other people destroy us because of skin tone, do you know how absurd that is.
Steps are being made to ‘address’ this issue I guess. There is an appreciation of darker skin women rising on social media for example but I fear it is more a case of fetishisation once again.

For example I read a comment under an article on colourism that said that the dark skin women we see and are told are beautiful are gorgeous, curvy women all standing half-naked, doused in baby oil with long hair and that’s it. And from what I have seen, that is a fair point. And we all know that I am down for female beauty and I love women but if we only see dark-skin women as beautiful when they are being sexualised in some respects, we are causing more harm than good. We are replicating the fetishisation of light skin women and just slapping it onto dark-skin women. (It’s like that blurred line between appreciation and fetishisation).

I can’t force anyone to think a certain way but I really do believe that we all need to do some self-reflection. Have we let what we consume blur our idea of beauty and what is acceptable? Are we grouping and dividing people as light-skin and dark-skin and letting that impact how we see and treat them? In an ideal world, things like this would not matter. And things like this don’t have to matter. It all comes down to loving each other. Loving each other enough to represent men and women of all skin tones in all their nuances. Loving each other enough to stop fetishising one another. And loving each other just because.

I hope this -ism can disappear quickly because it’s annoying and unnecessary and there are far too many problems in communities to let mere skin tone divide us. Come on now.

Below are links to interesting articles and videos about colourism if you want to know more and thank you to all the lovely people who answered my questions and really enlightened me on colourism  x

Update: So, I spoke about representation here and forgot to mention that my friends and I are starting a campaign to address to lack of representation of British BAMEs in the media and school curriculum. The campaign is launching on the 1st of July and  to get involved and stay updated follow @1isnotenough and email

Keep Smilng!
Itunu x

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4 thoughts on “Colourism- the ism that has got to go

  1. The fact that XVIIth century bourgeois salon ladies wore make up to look “whiter than white” says everything. There, I said it! Twentyseventeeth century! So not 2016, so outdated. We all should stop thinking of those ideas that are only there to divide us. You said it so truthfully. Bless you x

    Liked by 1 person

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