Throwing Shade about Shades: colorism in minority communities

Morgan Clark

Over my past years in college, I’ve realized some people are in dire need of being educated on the backgrounds of people who surround them. Skin color is often misrepresented by the media, mainly for  performance artists and even for people who contribute to tragedies like mass shooting. People often talk about skin color in terms of racial oppression, whether that be through the law, words of hate or physical actions. But often a main component that people often forget about – especially minorities- is the problem of colorism within our own communities.
I know, I know. You think everyone would be on the same page by now when it comes to uniting to end racism, but it’s not all that simple. The lack of discussion about colorism makes it that much harder for minorities to rise against their oppressions, along with many other important factors.
Now, I’m not talking about colorism as a whole, where society values lighter skin over darker. I’m talking about colorism within communities of minorities, where those with lighter skin tones are not treated as well as those with darker complexions, or vice versa.
I’ve experienced this throughout my life and find it quite ignorant, especially when the discrimination comes from minorities who preach about loving everyone and making everyone feel valued regardless of skin color. I find it hypocritical that a person with darker skin can be seen as being more or less part of a race. This defeats the purpose of even attempting to stop classifying people by the color of their skin.
Over spring break, I encountered a person of color at a newspaper conference that singled me out because of my skin color. They asked how I survived working with a majority white staff on the newspaper. I kind of laughed because I love my staff,  but was also struck because little did they know there were other colored students present. However, they were much lighter in complexion than me. That person essentially invalidated the minority staff members who weren’t “dark enough” to be considered a minority.
I pondered these thoughts: What does that mean for people who are minorities, but don’t look like it? How are we supposed to even attempt to lessen racism if we can’t even unite as a whole? Shouldn’t they be just as valued as part of a community as well?
I get mistaken for being of mixed race all the time because of my skin tone and straightened hair (thank God for flat irons). It’s saddening to me that people are so quick to judge simply based on the color of my skin. Skin color can be a means for people’s identity, which is why people shouldn’t be so quick to assume. Why do people always assume things based on appearance? Assuming gets you into trouble.
I ponder these questions all the time and wonder: will we ever get anywhere with the problem of race? I am optimistic still.  
Racism is often focused around the white man and his faults. News flash: we can’t blame white people for our racial struggles when we create those struggles too. Does this mean we need to ignore the role of the white man in racism. No. However, minorities can’t ignore the problems within our own communities before attempting to solve larger scale problems. Ignoring colorism doesn’t promote the progress necessary for change.