With the recent developments of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the world has witnessed a systematic commencement of raging voices against the issues of Colourism and Racism globally. As we know, Colourism finds its origins in slavery which led to an internalised continuum of colour-based bias against ‘Non-whites’ for over 300 years now.
On the other hand, Racism is an uninterrupted history of systematic deprivation. In both literal and practical meanings, it is entirely different from what colourism means. The former leads to an overarching prejudice towards ‘outsiders’ whereas the latter deals with the underlying agenda involving marketing propaganda that deeply penetrates through societies by portraying ‘Non-whites’ as an inferior group of people in the perpetual long run of individual consumerisms.
As Lupita Nyong’o rightly said, “Colourism is the daughter of racism.”. Some view Colourism to be a by-product of white supremacy; a form of inter-racial discrimination practised globally. By refusing to recognise institutional racism and its performance by privileged actors daily, colour norms are perpetuated at grassroots levels.
In my opinion, the major cause of colourism starts with the young minds of adolescents who are systematically taught throughout their childhood about preferential treatments based on colour biases deriving from their own cultural and societal backgrounds. The notion of ‘ideal beauty’ which constructs the core foundation of these innocent minds makes them think that the words ‘black’ and ‘beauty’ could not be used together in the same sentence. This tempts people to use ‘fairness creams’ as their last resort in the hope of feeling more loved and appreciated in their surroundings.
Racial and Ethnic slurs against African American’s or Southeast-Asians is a very prevalent practice across the world. The growing ‘Meme culture’ has also contributed to promoting these narrowed belief systems hiding under the name of just harmless humour. However, people should maintain ‘moral sensitivity’ towards their actions and acknowledge their privilege rather than using it to devalue others.
Our innate human state of individualism leads us to feel that we are indoctrinated to consider ourselves as a key entity in deciding who’s better or worse than us, which clearly shows how we are all silently moulded to be hypercritical. This decision of preferential treatment is no doubt a conscious act that is influenced by both external factors and results from our in-built beliefs. This, in turn, acts as a needle that takes the thread of racism and runs its course throughout the generation.
Having said that, it’s extremely important to take initiative to reduce this entrenched norm of coloured prejudice. First things first; The Question of Self. In order to change the construct of colourism, we need to self-introspect as to how we have perceived this phenomenon all throughout our lives and accept the change required for the betterment of society.
Media literacy is another mechanism which could encourage adolescents to question how unrealistic images presented in the media are, and how stereotypes and prejudices are communicated with the ulterior motive of commercial success. We should also engage in one on one dialogue with our fellow companions about the extreme generalisation of such colour biases including the widespread use of colourist slangs which might hurt the sentiments of any community altogether. With some multinational companies announcing the discontinuation of skin lightening products, we can hope to see a light at the end of this tunnel.
This is the time to unite under the same umbrella and fight against the concerns regarding Colourism and Racism created by these societal standards and make sure they’re not just hashtags but also a largely impactful and approachable platform for people who feel undermined by something as natural as their colour. In my opinion, I think it’s safe to say that ‘Each life matters but the colour of your skin doesn’t’.
1.Nyong'o, L. (2019). Lupita Nyong'o: Colourism is the daughter of racism. bbc.com, 1. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-49976837
2.Broken bridges: An exchange of slurs between African Americans and second-generation Nigerians and the impact on identity formation among the second generation.
3.Colourism: a global adolescent health concern: Nadia Craddocka , Ncoza Dlovab , and Phillippa C. Diedrichsa; https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1267/2018/10/CURR…
By António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General