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  • Writer's pictureTyra Adeniji

Who taught you to hate yourself? Colorism

The term colorism has been thrown around in the public domain a lot in recent years. It has been seen to spark many debates particularly on Black Twitter. Many celebrities in the Black community have been accused of perpetuating colorist ideas.

Picture of Malcolm X
Image Credits: Canva


Colorism is a neologism coined by Alice Walker. It refers to the prejudice made towards another person in the same racial group. This is resultant in preferential treatment towards those with lighter skin, thus a closer proximity to whiteness. Those with lighter skin are considered to be more desirable.

These ideas have been seen to be embedded culturally and psychologically in the Black and also the POC community. The dichotomy between light and dark has been actualized through systemic inequality and institutionalized racism dating back to Willie Lynch. Also, the media plays a huge role via the presentation of the accepted model of beauty as one with lighter skin. This preferential treatment has manifested itself in self-hate internalised in the Black community.


Self-hate has been particularly problematic in the Black community. It can be seen to have actualized itself through the culture towards skin-bleaching and also interracial relationships, which will be discussed later. Speaking on the effects of self hate manifested by colorism. It has meant that Black women may feel like they are less than, because of the western standard of beauty and also feel rejected and neglected by Black men.

Self-hate can also be seen to have taken a huge toll on Black men through the way in which they can be seen to also be a huge part of perpetuating colorism. This can be seen through the way in which the way some Black men tend to dismiss issues that Black women face such as colorism. This erasure of issues as such helps in perpetuating it. They also tend to attach negative stereotypes to Black women, such as having an attitude and being aggressive, pushing the infamous stereotype of the "angry black woman".


Colorism can also be seen to manifest itself through the way in which many tend to have a 'preference' towards lighter skinned woman, of a closer proximity to whiteness. Black men can be seen to be flawed through the way in which they play a part in bashing dark-skinned women and making them feel unworthy.

In the dating world, lighter-skinned woman can be seen to be placed on a pedestal, thus giving them an inflated sense of ego. Therefore, they may feel that they are better than through the way in which Black men make them feel more desirable and therefore more worthy. Being lighter-skinned in the Black community can be seen to come with privilege. Many lighter-skinned women are aware of the privilege they enjoy, however they choose not to say anything about the way in which darker-skinned women are treated. Through this silence, they too are an agent in upholding the system of colorism.


There have been movements and initiatives in order to try and dismantle the degrading system of colorism in the Black community. This can be seen through the popular hashtag of #BLACKGIRLMAGIC which went viral in 2016, as a rebuttal to the western beauty standards to appreciate the beauty of dark-skinned women who are often ignored in western media.


We as a community need to try to dismantle this system of colorism, which was put in place to be divisive and make us turn against one another. And we shouldn't be continuing to perpetuate this conflict.

Instead, we should work to support one another rather than being antagonistic. We should love one another, love all the shades of Black and embrace each other to work to grow and prosper.



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