Colorism as the Bone of Contention in African American Community

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Is colorism about black people’s self–hatred or white people's racism? Colorism began back in slavery when the lighter complexion was given more of a fair treatment than the darker complexion. To this present day, the lighter toned are portrayed as superior and viewed as the most useful in the community. Colorism is slowly disunifying the culture because it’s putting the African American race against each other.

In the workplace colorism generates unfair and inaccurate stereotypes based on light skin and dark skin. According to Matthew Harrison, “we found that a light-skinned male can have only a bachelor's degree and typical work experience and still be preferred over a dark skin black male with an MBA and past managerial positions simply cause expectations on light-skinned black male are much higher”(Harrison). Lighter-skinned individuals with lesser education are preferred over darker individuals because they are stereotyped into being harder workers, when in many cases tone does not equate work ethic. By putting the light skins in a position that is undeserving shows a discriminatory action towards the ones who have potential to bringing more to the table. What is being acknowledged as an inaccurate stereotype is that in the workplace expectations on the darker skins are not high because they are known or seen to getting little to nothing done. In other words, light skins in the workplace are put on a pedestal and give equitable power.

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Black people find themselves in competition with each other for higher praise from the outside communities. Matthew Harrison states “this finding is possible due to the common belief that fair skinned black probably have more similarities with whites than do dark-skinned blacks which in turn makes whites feel comfortable” (Harrison).This leads to them feeling as if one is better than the other and above one another because they are based differently from their skin color. Eventually, dark skins see the light skins as an opponent more than a friend. Instead of working together they want to compete for upper authority. Therefore, the blacks end in competition to come out on top and avoids fixing the real problem.

Based on today’s society lighter toned people are more likely to have increased salary pay. Arthur H. Goldsmith states, 'our estimate indicate that a typical light-skinned black earns statistically significantly more than 10 percent higher wages than a comparable medium skinned black worker” (Goldsmith). Based on statistics, black people with light-skin tones make an average 10% than darker skinned people solely based on their skin color. This contributes into colorism because companies are choosing to pay light skin workers more, causing a wage gap between the African American race. This in the end can make darker skinned people envious towards someone within their own race because they are making more while working the same positions.

The media's attention is focused on looks and not the psychologic damage it has caused. Women and men fine themselves changing their natural features to look “beautiful.” According to Dr. Yaba Blay, “there are specific reasons why African American women use such products: to remove blemishes, and imperfections and to counteract the effects of the sun, to appear and feel clean to appear white, European and beautiful” (Blay). Women try to change themselves to look and feel beautiful by going through extreme measures to meet the ideal preference in society. The medias portrayal of lighter skinned women being more beautiful not only causes darker skinned women to want to change their appearance to fit into societies version of beauty it also makes African American men have dating preferences on women based on skin tones. With the media’s push of lighter skin, European beauty standards, this puts the entire race of African Americans against each other with light skin vs dark skin debates in dating, personalities and overall characteristics of individuals based upon the amount of melanin in their skin. To sum up, social medias desire to make lighter skin more acceptable over darker skin not only influences physical admiration within the black community, it also influences the representations of the two skin types in Hollywood.

Hollywood aims for lighter skinned actresses and actors to play the leading and important roles. While darker skinned actors are reduced to play the stereotypic parts. Furrow explains,” this placed both lighter and darker African Americans in a situation where many felt as though they could not simply be black without being categorized” (Farrow). Many African Americans feel as though in Hollywood they are put into categories based on their skin type. Categorizing light skinned people in more dominant roles diminishes the representation of darker toned people. With darker tones not having represented in Hollywood, darker skinned people tend to voice their opinions about the movies and shows that are controversial to colorism. In short, Hollywood portrayal of African Americans as a whole and the way that they represent African Americans can affect the overall self-esteem of African Americans mainly darker skinned people.

Self-esteem of darker skinned people are minimized due to what is perceived in Hollywood and media. In Nittle’s View “rather than acknowledging that beauty can be found in people of all skin tones, colorism narrows beauty standards by deeming only light skinned people as beautiful and everyone else as less than that”(Nittle). Instead of putting the attention on how the media can mentally damage ones’ self-esteem it is put off by diminishing beauty standards. Dark skin people see themselves as less than beautiful which leads to low self-esteem and mental health issues. Colorism leads to darker individuals questioning their beauty and the potential they have outside their skin colors. In summary, the media has a negative impact on mental issues to which can lead to a bad performance in school.

Darker individuals of the African Americans race are seen in the eyes of others to lack less education. Darker people are not made out to be as intelligent as lighter toned people in white people point of view. Desmond says, “white interviewers deemed light-skinned blacks and Hispanics more intelligent than darker-skinned people who had identical achievements, vocabularies, scores on a political test and variety of factors.” (Dawson). In the educational setting the intelligence of those of a darker skin tone are constructed on how light or dark the skin is. Rather than your mental capacity being established by ones’ achievements and test scores your skin color determines what level of education someone may think you comprehend in. Being singled out by the color of your skin can be dehumanizing and dejected. As a result, this can bring about questions on abilities and potentials that can cause them to go a different route in the future or life in general.

Harder punishments are put on darker toned students which restricts them from having the same school experience as the lighter skinned people showing favoritism in an academic setting. In Webbs view “yet the effects are damaging for students whether it results in unfair disciplinary actions or prevention from taking more advanced courses” (Webb). Students of a darker color face unfair punishments such as longer school suspension or being held back from expanding their knowledge capability. Attention is focused on lighter students and leads to the darker students remaining at a lower level of learning than others because they are not getting the same learning experience. Darker students are then left out and sought to learn on their own this can cause students to fail , drop out or stop attending school in general. Hunter believes “ through disciplinary practices that disadvantage darker skinned children and reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline and through the presence of a social hierarchy of students that favors those who have lighter skin within racially segregated schools”(Hunter). While inflicting disciple on darker children there are more disadvantages which causes a link from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse . Since punishments on darker students can be more to the extreme disproportionate tendency of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school and municipal policies. Unfair punishments as an darker minor in school can result in jail time as an adult. In other words, not giving the students the same experience in school can affect the development of a student which can cause them to take further actions of them not participating in school or with unfair punishments can lead them in the wrong path.

Students of a darker skin tone are contradicted no matter the learning abilities. Wilson writes “designated to accept the lighter skinned individuals were tailored to maintain a level of superiority over dark skin toned individuals, the schools offered more of a fine arts focus whereas the alternative centered toward vocational training for darker tone individuals (Wilson).” Students are separated based on their skin color and receive different expectation levels in school. This proves that the academic standards do not matter if colorism is in play because the students are judged from their skin color on the level of education they are on. Colorism is used as an implement of persecution by taking away an equal education approach within the African American race. In conclusion students are split apart so that those of a lighter skin color are put in a school that help maintain a good level of education and darker skinned students are less thought of and put into a lower educational position.

Many believe that colorism does not actually affect the way you are viewed in society. In the article, Denzel Washington doesn't think Hollywood has a colorism problem, A famous actor, producer and director in Hollywood argues in an interview “that it is not the system, but the lack of skill, that hinders dark actors from achieving success” (Denzel Washington doesn’t think Hollywood has a Colorism Problem). To elaborate darker individuals simply do not work hard enough for what they want. Therefore, they blame it on the system and colorism because they are not good at their job. Critics have a valid point about darker individuals not pushing themselves out there more and victimizing themselves into believing that they do not get many opportunities based on their skin tone. Though it is a valid point that people with more melanin in their skin do not put themselves out there as much as they should, but they do not have the chance to because they are treated with less dignity.

In conclusion Colorism is slowly disunifying the culture because it is putting the African American Race against each other. In the workplace where professionalism is thought to be shown those of a darker skin color are treated differently from those of a lighter skin toned which contributes to a unfair treatment in the work environment. The media’s portrayal of what an appealing African American Looks like becomes dehumanizing toward ones of a darker color since in the media they are made out as unpleasant in the eyes of others. Education chances are somehow minimized to groups of darker African Americans because they are seen to lack knowledge and are not in association to any education. It is important that we just do not recognize how colorism is breaking apart the African American community but encourage how we can keep it together.

Colorism puts a limit on opportunities that can lead to superiority unless the African American community can surpass the skin color issue in society African Americans will find themselves in a non-ending battle within each other that will only leave the problem to worsen and poison the future. 

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