Colorism (2): “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself”- Malcom X


Colorism simply means self-hatred, a strong yet unnoticed form of mental problem. During the slavery moments in America, the nature of the duty given to a black man or woman was dependent on the skin tone of the African slave. The lighter skinned ones were made household maids and servants, while the darker ones worked in the fields, but don’t miss the point, everyone both in the house or the fields were all slaves. Both were abused in distinctly different ways, while some labored in the sun, some labored indoors. The mixed nature of blacks was as a result of slave women and girls who were taken advantage of by their slave masters or out of mutual relations for some. The black fanatics view being lighter skinned as an adulteration of the black origin while the lighter skinned blacks are tired of the black prejudice- judged as living easier lives or just seen as traitors. Even as the whole of black community in America battles with racism, they also do not fail or hesitate to draw lines between core original blacks and the mixed community, reminding them of their origin. While we hope for a truce in the black and white racial feud dating back to ages ago, same is hoped for the descendants of the black maids and those of the field workers in those times. We cannot exclude the typical black and white racial issue, but colorism centers on the discrimination of either the lighter or the darker shade of back within the black community.

Paper Bag Skin Test 1

In the African-American community, the skin tone partition was determined by the brown paper bag skin test; those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. There rose the issue of validation on who is more African than the other. Till date there’s a deluge of discrimination coming from both extremes of the African-American community.

Colorism- the virus of color prejudice possibly serves as a tool to disintegrate the unity of the black community. Like in the sentiments of Malcom X, the white man makes the gambling cards and dice and sells to the blacks but arrests the black man for using them. It appears as though the government is for anything that will promote the degradation of the black community. Just the same way they turned a blind eye to the plan to assassinate Malcom X, so also are they undisturbed about the situation, that way, blacks are distracted with ‘little matters’ and robbed of the bigger picture, that’s when black people begin to hate on each other up to the political level, all for the validation of skin, which are basically same if they take time to look at it. The social implication of being lighter than or darker than is just the recycling of imperialism. There seems to be a political advantage attached to colorism, detrimental to the blacks and the opposite for the white man in politics. If the shade of one’s skin puts a fellow black off on a very good day, it is logically expected that tendency might creep into the political realm. It is assumed that being the white man’s favorite meant you are one step away from being a puppet and as such, capable of jeopardizing the well-being of the black people. Fortunately the American black community does not have this tendency. The political and cultural attitudes is not influenced by the issue of colorism; still the issue needs to be tackled.

I’m sure the black race is smart enough to see this hateful trend for what it is- a means of keeping their growth and development as a people in check; an implied passive and less visible strategic opportunity to disintegrate the black community by pitching them against each other. As glaring as it is that a lighter skin black man gets a job because of the tone of his skin, you don’t expect him to give up the job and as much as it hurts to see someone less qualified for a job get it because of such a flimsy reason as the tone of the skin, there is really not much you can do than try understanding the ironical situation. Don’t forget, the white man, who is the architect of colorism, makes his skin tone preference, tactically exempts himself from the scene and blacks begin to bear the brunt.

African Boy child

Are people taught from homes to be skin color sensitive? I think so but done in an unconscious and inconsiderate way. Sometimes it starts from childhood the fairer the child, the greater the attention; flaunted more and automatically named Monalisa (if it’s a girl). Then the darker skinned children pick up the idea that they don’t have the ideal skin, and any other incident that points to their skin is already making them less confident and before you know it, someone is spending a lot of years sad and battling an inward low self-esteem. More so if a parent or guardian has a skin inferiority complex, it practically rubs off on the child.

I now appreciate some fun secondary school awards back in the day, there was always the ebony black beauty category. And if you saw the winners of this award, you will agree black is a priceless beauty, cosmetics cannot afford that kind of tone for anyone. While beauty is subjective, and such awards should probably not exist on the basis of mere physical attributes, it was good to know people were appreciated for being just how they are, black, bold and beautiful.

This intra-racial feud overtime has become a global phenomenon- the African continent as core victims of this madness. Some may never have known the history of the skin tone supremacy battle but just crashed into it as globalization and consumerism presents it as a sassy trend. It appears it will take regular and intense series of desensitization in schools and other institutions, across Africa and other black communities in order to foster peace in the minds of people who constantly battle with the skin tone complex. If the government (in the footsteps of Ivory Coast) will assist by putting a ban on some of the toxic substances dumped down here in the guise of skin lighteners, and probably create disciplinary and regulatory measures that public figures may not lure or be lured into the act of bleaching just for the purpose of having better work opportunities, that will go a long way in showing the seriousness of the matter as well as a step in mitigating the lightening craze of the 21st century.

Coident Black Woman 1

Recently came across a post that said “If all women felt good about themselves, imagine how many companies will be out of business”. That’s a fact, a lot of companies will be broke to the skull if Africans stopped buying into the cheap lie of toning up the skin for a “lighter” and “better” effect. We cannot say it enough that altering your skin tone, implies that you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, you hate yourself. Second to that, the World Health Organization warns against bleaching of the skin, since that will be a most convenient remedy to consider. Unfortunately, you can’t fix a psychological problem with toxic cosmetics. It will be nice to know that the global skin lightening industry with a current estimated worth of  $10 billion collapsed because ladies became more confident and enlightened about what actually counts.

Mulatto Girl child

Will you be surprised to hear that the increased interracial marriages might have a superficial reason behind them; chances are that they might be done in the bid to have lighter skinned children; supposedly offering them the opportunity of being more socially accepted. Well, beauty is an abstract phenomenon; it is not a fixed mathematical formula. The earlier we see the good in our “Africaness”, the better.

Given the current situation of things, I suspect and in fact starting to agree that the white man does not want to be black but might possibly want what we have; but the black man today wants to be white and have all that is attributed to the white man. Behind the mask of African patriotism is the longing to really be like the whites. MJ is black but all his children are full-fledged whites- no single black trait; who is fooling who. Whites may have contributed to the problem but the bulk of the work is left for us to do. We are the ones who look sick and pale trying to bleach out the skin; we are the ones who end up with health and skin complications; we are the ones who end up looking confused because no matter the tone, black is still black.

A confident African American business man smiling with his colle

The ancient European domination and chauvinism(plus tech-advancement) has placed an indelible mark on our psyche and even after centuries, the idea is still there, reserved in a part of our minds that they are superior to the black race. On the contrary, if you are saved from fire, then you have no business smelling like smoke. We appear ridiculous when we insist on playing the victims and continue hating on one another because our skin tones are not the same. I think the fear of the colonial oppressors still lives in our minds, colorism is a proof of that. Maybe it’s the stereotype or rather the stench that comes with slavery, the stigma does not just go away, it takes time but how long it lingers and robs us of sanity is dependent on our decision today to restore peace and unity in the black community. Colorism demands an antidote of self contentment, being happy and satisfied with what you have and who you are. You’d be surprised to know that someone somewhere was wishing to have exactly what you have.