Black people don’t go to tanning salons! Most of you probably laughed, but have you thought about why you laughed? This article is about colorism, the concept that was at the core of that joke. Black people don’t go to tanning salons because we don’t desire to be dark. There’s a long-standing history and lots of feelings that come up with this topic.
We’ve all heard of racism, but colorism? Colorism is an idea that occurs in most non-white American cultures that I know of. It’s the idea that lighter, is better. Generally scholars believe that this phenomenon showed up in part through colonialism in areas where lighter skin was not the dominant skin tone. This was specifically effects Black Culture where it’s common to hear, “What you mix with?” “You look pretty for a dark skin girl.” “Light skin, long hair, don’t care.” And many many other terms and statements about color in the Black community. To have lighter skin gives you certain privileges in the Black community. You are seen as more attractive, smarter, kinder, and much, much more. People hoped for their children to be able to pass. Blacks who passed the paper bag test were they were light enough to enter white society and have all the things that darker Blacks could only dream of.
One of the unconscious and yet horrible portions of this idea is that most of the people that are light enough to have light skin privilege, had ancestors that were raped by their white masters or they just happened to be mixed which comes with its own set of unique problems. When slavery was created, masters would divide up their slaves due to skin color. additionally those who work outside were darker through tanning, than the house slaves. Because of this sometimes even the one of illegitimate parent aka the white master and a woman slave would have to do indoor work. Some even were treated slightly better.
This created a lot of strife between the new African Americans as to be light meant easier life. As time went on and even after Blacks were freed from their bondage we have always felt in the pressure to look as much like whites as we can to be treated as humans. Being lighter skin meant you were closer to achieve those privileges and if you dated another light-skinned person your children would be more likely to pass and be considered beautiful.
This idea as continue into current day which is why the natural hair movement is so important and so many Black people scorning those who bleach their own skin. It is to say that they don’t believe they’re African this is all so beautiful or less beautiful than the whiteness of the people who oppress us to look white can be dangerous for those who choose to modify their bodies to fit into what they believe is attractive. In addition some people are born lighter than others and it teachers darker children that they are not worthy not as intelligent and not as desired as they’re lighter counterparts . It’s a big thing within the culture and can be just as hurtful as racism.
Now, Today this doesn’t mean that Black people want to be white. But for so long the only way to survive, the way to have power and beauty was to be as white and light as possible. They often want all the perks of being what american really desire (White Americans want to be dark, and Black Americans lighter.) being a light tan with all the privilege of being white but the beauty of being Black. Colorism is a big topic that will likely come up many times through obsidian. This was just the fast and dirty introduction.