So, you want to know how to end colorism?
Well, if you were looking for a quick fix, I’m sorry to tell you there’s no easy answer.
The issue is as complicated as any other social problem.
But we must start somewhere.
And the fact that you’re here reading this is a good sign that we can and will make progress in our efforts to stop the cycle of colorism.
Here I want to talk less about how to end colorism and more about what it takes to end colorism.
Courage and Honesty
Courage and honesty must be at the core of everything we say and do in the struggle to end colorism.
First, colorism is one of those “controversial” issues that many people passionately disagree about. I’m gaining critics and enemies with every word I write–not intentionally, but inevitably.
If you’re not ready or willing to deal with criticism, personal attacks, confrontation, and loss, then you won’t be effective in this fight.
It’s going to take courage to speak up in a group of friends or family and denounce an act of colorism.
Second, it takes courage to be honest.
We can’t heal unless we know precisely what needs to be healed. Are we expressing insecurities about ourselves, or prejudices against others? Have we been hurt by others, or have we been hurting others? Is a particular situation a case of colorism, or merely coincidence?
If it is colorism, we have to be honest and say it is. If we are insecure, we have to be honest and say we are. If we are prejudiced, we have to be honest and admit it.
Are you ready for that?
Good! Then let’s continue.
No matter what race or color, we have all been complicit in perpetuating colorism.
Usually, when we talk about colorism in general conversations, we’re limited to the individual, interpersonal experience. Sometimes we only think of colorism as “that girl’s insecurity,” or “that girl’s low self-esteem,” or “that girl’s jealousy.” We often think of healing from colorism as “teaching girls to love themselves.”
But colorism is not just a personal problem. Colorism is a social problem. Colorism influences our society’s legal system, politics, educational system, healthcare system, crime and violence, and media.
No social problem can exist or cease to exist without community level action.
Teaching dark brown girls to love themselves is a worthy and necessary goal, but it’s often a cop-out for doing the additional, more difficult work of teaching our entire society to love dark brown girls.
Would we solve racism by merely teaching black and brown people to love themselves? Would we solve sexism by merely telling women they just need to love themselves? Would we solve homophobia by merely telling gays and lesbians to just take pride in who they are?
You can love yourself all you want and still be negatively impacted by colorism in the larger society. All the self-love in the world won’t stop a kid from getting shot and killed because of how someone else perceives him.
Now, I’m all for self-love. I really am. But too often we pretend like that alone is the answer to colorism. Perhaps we’re too afraid, too self-absorbed, or too lazy to confront the rest of the problem.
In order to really heal from colorism, we must seek to address it at the community level (just like we do with racism, sexism, or crime) and stop centralizing the problem and its solutions on individual people.
I could have lumped this into the community section, but it’s such an important and complex piece of the puzzle that it needs to be singled out.
For many people, the earliest and clearest ideas about skin color, hair texture, and features come from family members. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Although a lot of people point to the media as a primary factor in colorism, I think what goes on in our families is even more important. When we consume media, we’re merely observing strangers. Although those images are powerful, discrimination within our own families is actually a lived experience that directly involves us and those we have intimate relationships with, making it that much more painful and traumatic.
The family’s role in healing colorism is twofold:
First, families must say and do as many positive things as possible to promote self-love and affirm the worth and beauty of ALL family members of EVERY SHADE.
Second, families must openly and lovingly address instances of colorism whenever they happen.
Ignoring, laughing off, or excusing an act of colorism is just as bad as committing an act of colorism. Most of us just let tough or potentially confrontational situations slip by without saying anything. But in the words of Audre Lorde: “Your silence will not protect you.” And it certainly will not help to end colorism.
Many victims of colorism within families believe they have no voice and no ally. You can be the courageous person in your family who saves your niece, nephew, cousin, daughter, son, brother, or sister by affirming them and standing up for them whenever you see colorism happening.
In order to heal families and communities, we must heal ourselves. You know how the saying goes: “Hurt people, hurt people.”
Until we deal with our own individual issues, whether it’s prejudice or insecurity, we’re likely to continue spreading the germ of colorism. The world doesn’t need our colorism germs.
Persistent Action Over Time
I saved this one for last because if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably committed to actually working to end colorism. This will separate those who think colorism is an interesting topic for discussion from those, like you, who are ready to do something to end it.
As I said before, there are other posts that provide specific actions; but whatever actions we take in the fight against colorism, we must persist over time, probably our entire lifetimes.
When I talk to some people about colorism, they seem shocked that this is still going on. I question that reaction because we all know that problems don’t just go away on their own. What makes these people think that colorism should have just evaporated overtime all by itself?
The world needs you to help put an end to colorism.
Now that you know what it really takes, are you up for the challenge?