“You’re pretty for a dark-skinned”. 10 year old me would have smiled and said a sincere thank you, 17 year old me is not particularly sure how to reply.
This was not the first time I heard that statement neither was I the only one it was said to, and of course I began to notice it -like every normal person should-. I saw it happen over and over again but nobody seemed willing to address it then I discovered society’s name for it: COLOURISM. I have no idea if it’s an actual word but I do know that Google recognizes it so yes, COLOURISM.
They say it’s discrimination against dark-skinned people, typically among people of the same racial group blah blah blah….but I think it’s a fancy word explaining why Emmanuel keeps announcing that he only dates fair girls.
Partnering with light skinned men or women is a preference, but on closer examination, I can’t help but wonder if this preference is probably rooted in misogynoir or colourism rather than preference considering the fact that being light skinned is seen as a measure of cleanliness, sensitivity, and elegance. I have no problem with people’s preferences after all we are a visual species and people will like whoever attracts them. The real problem arises when these “personal” preferences influence our sense of equity and social standards making us classify one shade of skin as superior to another.
Bringing it home.
Does colourism exist in Nigeria? Hell yes!!!! Even though we are either unable to recognize it or we simply refuse to acknowledge it. The uncomfortable truth is that it does exist,braided in our every action, comment, expression, belief, and interaction. It is so deeply rooted and normalized in our lives that we hardly recognize it. Very few would notice that the movies most times make the black girls look like shrews:too fast, too forward, or too sarcastic to be loved. Even children are not left out of this politics of skin colour; it’s always a poor dark skinned child in the charity Ads section while a light skinned child is the face of that same magazine.
Go on,blame the colonial masters-they take the blame for all our vices anyway. While it is true that blacks were victims of extreme colourism at the time of colonization, it would be severely myopic to blame colourism on the Whites and the effects of colonialism.
We live in an African society where most of it’s people are dark-skinned and skin bleaching is seen as a desperate attempt at achieving beauty. Ironically, light skinned people are seen as more beautiful and being light skinned is seen as an “advantage” -and that’s putting it lightly.
Although it is true that the pressure of being defined by skin colour has made many people resort to skin bleaching (and I’m not just talking women),we cannot blame the choices of people to bleach solely on colourism. The desire to be seen as “beautiful” by society is what pushes people to bleach. Simply put; Colourism exists and so does Vanity. We have reached a point where society assumes that everybody wants to be light skinned so much that most skin products are now tagged as skin “brightening” or “toning”. They say it’s supposed to “bring out your real colour”.
A very sincere moment of silence for the thousands of people who have fallen victim to these schemes… It is not easy to walk around on the street bearing on your skin the evidence of a failed bleaching venture ranging from severe burns to uneven colouration of the skin. It’s funny but it isn’t really. The damage that these products do to the skin can never be over emphasized. Bless whosoever brought about Snapchat and praises to God for Iphone cameras and foundation else it would have been a blood bath!!
This eurocentric standard of beauty is more harmful than we choose to admit. Although ppeople are recently being encouraged to appreciate their skin colour, there is the need for more substantial work to be done to resolve it rather than telling black people to love themselves but this may never happen because the problem starts with us; Society.
Somebody reading this is probably thinking: “Another dark-skinned writer with a victim complex”. It is this very mentality that has stopped black people from naming it for so long, and it is what keeps us from talking about it now. Mamy people obsessed with their colour are too self aware to speak about it in public as complaining about it would only result in a round of fury and abuse. Hence, many choose to ignore it and they act unaffected.
The daily toll of living with colourism is inescapable and no matter how much self love one has, it is difficult to keep up when this problem continues to resurface in everything we involve ourselves in. It is important to deem Colourism worthy of study because its effects are keenly felt by so many people, but as it is, we still have a long way to go in achieving this.
For now, I’m going back to observe as self certified beauty expert Andrew’s latest stock of skin “whitening” cream gets sold out. AGAIN!!!😂
( Thoughts from a friend).
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