Throughout the existence of humankind, there have been many wars that have peaked the headlines and global interest but there is one war that has outlasted all precedent. That war is within humankind, within the people around us, within our own race. That war deteriorates humankind from the inside out, that war is known as colorism. Skin color is becoming a more common gauge for some Americans (of all races) to determine who fits in and who does not, even in an increasingly changing American culture with an increasing minority population. This attempts to evaluate the issue of colorism by analyzing two books which explore colorism and related factors through comparing and contrasting the books’ similarities and differences.
Even though the issue of colorism is rarely conversed about, it is highly prevalent in the social and public set up. The issue is sensitive one which threatens the social fabric that weaves society together. Among the many similarities between the two books, the most astonishing one is that for a dark-skinned individual for to be generally accepted with the social circles of their light-skinned counterpart is that, one has to be better than the average. Such an individual has to prove certain abilities that light skinned do not possess. The most astonishing difference is that, while one source argues that colorism emanates from colonization and slavery, the other source indicates that colorism is as a result of negative underlying assumptions associated with the dark race.
Keywords: colorism, cosmetic surgery, beauty queue, light and dark skin.
While all human beings are beautifully and wonderfully created in the likeness of God, some are looked down upon based on the skin tone. There is a high prevalence of discriminating individuals on the basis of their color in the current society be on employability or social inclusion. Socially, individuals are classified either as light skinned or dark skinned. In many societies regardless of the fact that humans are all equal before the eyes of the Creator, dark-skinned persons are more likely to hate their own skin color or more likely to be discriminated. This paper purposes to examine how two books explore the issue of colorism on the basis of bringing out their differences and similarities regarding colorism.
“Skin Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the “Color-Blind” Era” by Herring, C., Keith, V. and Horton, H. D. explores how colorism continues to define the society despite the fact that 21St century is assumed to be color blind. The book was published in 2004, indicating that even though it is supposed to be an era which is blind to racial difference, colorism continues to thrive. The other book is “Race Gender and the Politics of Skin Tone” by Margaret L. Hunter published in the year 2013. The book aligns its content majorly to the benefits of an individual being light skinned as opposed to being dark skinned. Either in social places or workstation, light-skinned people are likely to get preferential treatment and structural privileges associated with whiteness.
Comparison and Contrast
Both works agree that light-skinned individuals are in an advantageous position in various aspects such as self-esteem, social life, employment and access to services compared to their dark-skinned counterparts in a whites populated society. Light skinned persons tend to enjoy privileges which are meant to be for all members of the society more than dark skinned. Light skinned are treated as there are more superior than dark-skinned not because of their character or values but due to their color. For a dark-skinned person to be generally accepted in a white populated society as superior, they must possess certain qualities that distinguish them from the rest. Herring, Keith, and Horton (2004) during their conservation with one female notes, “… in order to be accepted I’d have to compensate for my dark skin color by being better than average.”
Stratification by color is an outgrowth of the colonial and slave histories of the African Americans and their contacts with Europeans. During colonization, dark-skinned people were treated as non-humans by their light-skinned masters. Dark skinned were inhumanely treated and denied basic rights. This cultivated the notion that whites are more humans than dark-skinned individuals, thus they are worth special treatment. Since light skinned used to regard dark skinned as slaves, this idea continues to thrive to the present era. Whereas, Hunter (2013) states that colorism and racism are purely as a result of facial appearance and the underlying assumptions associated with the dark skin. Dark appearance of one’s face will condemn such an individual to all negativities associated with dark skin. It is assumed that dark-skinned people are illiterate and are loosely regarded as monkeys. These notions are still prevalent in the present society.
Both books agree that light skin offers numerous social, economic and political advantages to people of color. It is easier for a light-skinned person to employment than a dark skinned person possessing similar qualifications. According to Herring, Keith and Horton, 2004, all other factors held constant, light-skinned in employability, they are considered more knowledgeable, facial appealing and the right people in comparison with their dark counterparts. In socio-political circles, dark-skinned have to be better than the average to be accepted. A classic example of this is the win of Obama in the presidential contest. There is an established beauty queue, a ranking order of women from lightest to darkest where the lightest get the most perks, rewards, and dates. For instance, dark women get least dates. One participant in the work notes, “… the first month of schooling light skinned girls got dates. Then the brown skinned girls started getting dates. And finally by Christmas when all these relationships were breaking up maybe the dark skinned girls would get a date.”
Hunter claims that while dark-skinned strive to be lighter, white women are always in the tanning booth trying to get darker. Whites are buying collagen injections to enlarge their lips so that they can appear as big as those of dark women. Hunter is trying to de-racinate the ideology of beauty by suggesting that the grass is always greener on the other side. This is implying that even dark women have features that are admired by white; as such, to some extent racism is a state of mind. However, Herring, Keith, and Horton, 2004 argue that legacies of slavery and colonialism are fundamental ingredients that continue to tolerate racism. Even if a white woman undergoes cosmetic surgeries to have some aspects of dark women, she is still a white woman who can never be compared to a dark-skinned woman.
Studies have discovered that skin color is related to feelings of self-worth and attractiveness, self-control, satisfaction and quality of life. These factors will have ultimate effects on the self-esteem of individuals. If an individual has skin color that is highly regarded in the society, he/she will tend to be more confident and high self-esteem and vice-versa. “Because beauty is asymmetrically assigned to the feminine role, women are defined as much by their looks as by their deeds.” This implies that in a sexist society as today, women’s bodies indicate their worth, more often than their minds. Therefore, light-skinned individuals who are considered beautiful and smart are likely to show high self-worth, self-esteem and confident than dark-skinned individuals.
Hunter (2013) has largely explored colorism without going beyond other factors that accompany colorism such as hair, eye color, a broad nose or even bigger lips because the color is the most notable physical feature and is also the feature that is most enduring and difficult to change. A broad nose can be altered with cosmetic surgery, eye color can be changed with contact lenses and hair can be straightened with chemicals. However, Herring, Keith, and Horton (2004) explore a range of these factors and their overall effects on the colorism especially in women of different ethnicity, race, and community.
Herring, C., Keith, V., & Horton, H. D. (2004). Skin deep: How race and complexion matter in the” color-blind” era. University of Illinois Press.
Hunter, M. L. (2013). Race gender and the politics of skin tone. Routledge.