Colourism could not exist without white supremacy, internalised racism, and the lust for proximity to whiteness.
Colourism often includes the following:
- Skin bleaching, using products often banned due to their toxicity, but readily available in grocery shops and pharmacies anyway. Often these products are endorsed by celebrities.
- Powerful chemicals used on children’s hair to appear straighter.
- Dark-skinned babies being unwanted/abandoned
- Descriptive terms once used during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, used by POC in the present day. ‘Nappy hair’ is just one example.
- Dark-skinned people who are Jewish or Latina denied their heritage because they’re ‘too dark’.
- People of Colour with darker skin treated less favourably than white people or those with lighter complexions. This treatment includes jobs, dating and relationships, systems of law, and victims of crime to name just a few.
Colourism occurs when POCs with lighter skin tones and straighter hair are called “Fair” whilst POC with darker skin tones and/or untreated hair are called N—. This happened to a relative in my old family who was darker than the rest of us.
Previously-colonised and enslaved countries are often the worst at perpetuating colourism, and it’s often due to the introduction of European/White beauty standards as the only acceptable way to be. ‘Uglification’ ties into colourism when POC are encouraged to hate their very beings. Uglification is a concept first introduced to me by Vanessa Rochelle Lewis (@the.ugly.black.woman on Instagram). Her tag line “Reclaiming our bodies/ freedom from Uglification! Centering our joy, pleasure, expression, and creativity. Exploring the potency of sensuality for Art” fights against colourism, racism and other types of hate directed at POC for being who they are.
Colourism isn’t just how your skin and hair looks, but it often becomes entwined with other forms of oppression like ableism, fatphobia, hatred of disfigurements and classism.
Colourism is cruelty on a global scale. It’s not just poisoned skin and damaged hair, but toxic attitudes that impact on our mental health, hurting already-vulnerable people. All of this for a dream that POC will be treated better, go further in life, and be happier because they gain proximity to whiteness in all its forms.