" If you brown, hang around. If you yellow, you mellow. If you white, you alright. If you black, get back.' " Comedian Paul Mooney
Colorism, best termed by Alice Walker in her book, In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens, is a variation of prejudice that discriminates against those of certain skin complexions based on social constructs surrounding skin color. This is especially prevalent within the Black community, as outlined by historian Anthony Browder, who advises our issues with colorism date back to slavery.
Individuals of lighter skin tones were often granted better opportunities, "They were the ones who maybe worked in the house, as opposed to the darker-skinned Africans who worked in the fields who were beaten more readily. Animosity had to grow out of that unfair relationship. Darker-skinned blacks began to resent light-skinned blacks who were given opportunities to succeed.” (Browder, 2005)
The lasting effects of colorism on the Black community have been well documented and in 2005 an article by ABC News referred to colorism as, “an open secret in the Black community.” Individuals of darker skin tones often report increased microaggressions, higher levels of physiological deterioration, and often suffer from poor health in comparison to those of lighter skin complexion.
As a society we frequently discuss both race and ethnicity, often overlooking the adverse effects of colorism. Meanwhile, this sub-phenomena has formatted itself into a lucrative industry, further secreting the idea that beauty is found possessing a lighter skin tone. Globally skin-lightening products are slated to reach $20,000 Million by 2022, as reported by The Cloud Tribune.
A 2006 study completed by the University of Georgia exposed a preference for light-skinned Black men in comparison to dark-skinned men when hiring, regardless of qualification level. The study also found, “that-skinned Black male with a Bachelor’s degree and typical work experience was preferred over a dark-skinned Black male with an MBA and past managerial positions.” (The Inclusion Solution)
Fully understanding the impact of colorism also involves a deeper understanding of the dynamic aspects of self-perception. White beauty standards will continue generating profit while perpetuating racism, and microaggressions will continually arise as we seek to gain employment, lines of credit, and operate as functioning members of society. If we truly wish to dismantle the notion that light skin is better, we must acknowledge how pervasive colorism is within our community while having open and honest discussions.