Colorism: A History of Self-Hate

For years, I understood the undercover battle of light-skinned black folks versus dark skin black folks. I knew it existed; had seen it, heard it and even indulged in it, but never knew it had a name; not until recently.

Colorism — prejudice or bias against persons on the basis of their skin color or complexion, often among persons of the same racial identification.

Merriam Webster doesn’t even have a definition for this word yet.

Another definition of colorism defines it as prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

I think, that at one time, the latter definition was strictly the case, but over time colorism has morphed into prejudice on the basis of skin color within one race.

So, why?

Why would a race of individuals be prejudiced against their own over something as trivial as having lesser or greater amounts of melanin?

For African-Americans, issues like this are all related to the trauma associated with the capture and enslavement of our ancestors.

Capture and enslavement, you may ask? But it’s 2019, how is that having an effect of people who weren’t even alive to suffer that demoralization?

The same way that a child sexually abused in 1969 can affect the future of their children and grandchildren. Trauma proliferates in a cyclical manner; meaning it travels in generational cycles. For the decedents of former slaves, the trauma still exists and will continue to exist until we, as a race, identify it, and counter it by embracing each other in all of our various shades and facets.

House slaves or house Negroes were such, because they were the offspring or relatives of the slave master or of a slave master on a neighboring plantation. Their lighter skin made them more favorable to work in the master’s house, and allotted them the opportunity to become skilled artisans, and to have better clothing and living arrangements.

Field slaves were chattel; made to work, be bred, traded and killed, if need be.

The division is obvious, and one can see how treatment and skin color relates to the overall perceived worth of those individuals, at the time.

The Wicked Orchard by Sidra Owens