Dear Black Women: Does Color-ism Still Exist?

By: Ke’Ana Lampkins

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by colorism (raises hand)? Raise your hand if you’ve ever personally victimized someone else because of the color of their skin (raises hand)? Raise your hand if you have ever wished you were a different skin complexion (raises hand again)?

Subtle hints of colorism are everywhere. It’s in the shows we watch, the artists we choose to listen to, even whom we choose to be attracted to, or the “type” we go for.

At a teen, I remember deciding that my type would be chocolate or dark-skin men. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was choosing whom I felt like represented me, and who would hopefully choose me back. I have early memories of being rejected by boys because I was a brown-skinned girl. 

Many of my best friends growing up were “lighter-skinned” (and their friends were light-skinned as well) so I always stood out, but not in a good way. We were at that age where the main and sometimes only goal (unfortunately) was talking to boys. I felt like the ugly duckling when I would hang out with them because I was either “pretty for a dark-skinned girl” or I wasn’t desirable at all.

These ideas of beauty didn’t randomly appear. It was a European standard that was used to create a hierarchy, strife, and division among black people. It also served as a reminder of their superiority. From our hair texture to our deep melanin skin to our body shape and figure, African-Americans were valued based upon their whiteness. 

When we review the complexion of our top female artists of 2019, Lizzo is the only artist with a darker complexion as well as a diverse body size. Therefore, we have to ask our selves, are we as accepting of artists who don’t easily fit into the European standard of beauty? If we don’t accept diversity in our music, do we accept it in our personal lives? 

Representation matters. Popular artists during the early 2000s were Ashanti, Monica, Brandy, Destiny’s Child, 3LW, Ciara, and TLC. As much as I love every single one of these artists, I remember comparing myself and embodying Brandy and Kelly (from Destiny’s Child). I saw and heard myself when I saw them. When I was with my friends, if more than one of us chocolate beauties were present, we can all recount times, where we fought over being the Brandy’s and the Kelly’s when assigning parts to cover on a song because of their presence, validated ours.

The media is a vehicle of what society reflects and accept. Unfortunately, many of us adhere to and further perpetuate European standards. If none of this relates to you, then keep scrolling, sis. But if you can think of a time that you felt you were not accepting of either dark or light complexion for any reason, then you too have room for growth. For the longest, I disliked Beyonce’ just because she was the light-skinned one in the group. It was easier to take my frustration out on a celebrity I would never meet, than some of my best friends at the time, or even a guy that I didn’t even really like.

Colorism is so much deeper than light-skinned vs dark-skinned. It’s about how what we perceive as beautiful and affects us as human beings. Moreover, it’s about a history of mental, spiritual and physical enslavement and how that affects us today. You would be remiss to think that somehow years of this kind of bondage and slavery don’t find ways to still haunt us. Knowledge is always key, and self-enlightenment and acknowledgment will always lead us down the road of a more promising and fulfilling tomorrow!

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Ke’Ana Lampkins is a contributing writer for The Pedestal Project, LLC. Ke’Ana is a Christian, wife, and mother dedicated to empowering young girls and women through counseling, mentorship, and education. Connect with her on Instagram @Beautifully_Yanni

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