Colorism in the Black Community

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Story by Nataleigh Jackson. Photo from NCCJ.

MAR. 13, 2019: Colorism is discrimination against people based on their skin tone. Usually colorism discriminates against people of a darker skin tone. So people would think colorism in the black community would be rare since we all are black and we all face discrimination. Well it’s not. Black people have to face discrimination by whites and even by their own people.

Dating back to slavery, lighter skinned people have always been treated better. During slavery, masters would tend to keep the darker toned slaves in the fields and the lighter skinned people in the house. Even though they were all still slaves, the lighter toned people didn’t have it as rough as the darker toned slaves who were forced to pick cotton in the heat. It’s honestly sad.

There is a difference between racism and colorism. The Merriam-Webster definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. So basically racism is when one race treats another race as if their race is more superior. The Merriam-Webster definition of colorism “is a phenomenon of light (such as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects”. Colorism is based on skin tone and racism is based on race. But, this doesn’t mean colorist people can’t be racist and racist people can’t be colorist. It just means that they aren’t the same.

The brown paper bag test played a big part in colorism during slavery. The brown paper bag test was a way for slave owners to racially discriminate against darker toned slaves. The slave owners got a paper bag and if the slave was darker than the bag then they had to work in the fields and if they was lighter than the bag then they would get to work in the house closer to the slave masters. During slavery, in some cases when a slave master would rape an African slave, the woman would have a baby and since the slave owner was white and the women was African that would result in a light skinned baby.

Discrimination affects people in ways even within the same race. We know how black people uses colorism to discriminate against their own race. Have you ever been affected by colorism? Have you ever noticed anyone that has been affected by colorism? Leave your comments below.

Nataleigh Jackson is a 10th grade scholar at Friendship Tech Prep Academy.