Shades of race

Courtesy+of+Pixabay.com
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Shades of race

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

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Colorism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group (Google Dictionary). It basically means people of the same race or ethnicity treat people with lighter skin better than people with darker skin.  Even though it may sound like it’s racism, it’s not. Racism is prejudice against someone based on their race which people may assume by skin color. Colorism is very big in places like Latin America, Asia, India, the Philippines, Africa, and countless other places in the world.  

Colorism is the idea that if you have lighter skin than you are perceived better and that you deserve more respect. If you have lighter skin, most often others expect that you are more likely to succeed, marry, and in general have a better life when compared to people with darker skin. The worst thing about it is that this narrow point of view happens in one’s own racial or ethnic group. In places like Latin America everyone wants to be white and if you disagree just look at the most popular telenovela stars or just most popular Latino stars. Look at the one thing they have in common, they all have light skin and more European features. There’s nothing wrong with these Latinos in the spotlight, but when this is the only thing Latinos recognize and consider beautiful it can start a lot of problems.

The messed up thing about colorism in Latin America is that having light skin is seen as a good thing, but then you come to the U.S if you have light skin you hear things like ”… oh you don’t look Latina” or “… you can’t be Latino you’re so white”. My own grandmother has even told me not to stay in the sun to long so I won’t get ‘too dark’. Then you have upper class Latinos who almost always have lighter skin insisting they are better because of their more European features.

It’s even tougher for Latinos who have African ancestry or appearance, or otherwise known as afro-latinos.They are two minorities that get oppressed for being Latino and oppressed for being black. They can’t win. But the hardest part is that a lot of this discriminations comes from their Latino side. You have Latino parents telling their kids to not date or marry people with darker skin so they can “mejorar la raza” (improve the race). Yes this is a real thing that many (not all) parents tell their children.

Talks about colorism and oppression of afro-latinos have come out thanks to singer Amara la Negra from the TV show Love & Hip Hop: Miami. In an interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” back in January, hosts Charlamagne and Envy were having a hard time believing what Amara was saying. They had a hard time believing how Amara could be Dominican and black. They asked her if she was sure colorism wasn’t just ‘all in her head’ and comparing her journey to people like Cardi B and Issa Rae. She also went on to say “If you’re Latina, you have to look like J.Lo, Sofia Vergara, Shakira etc., but when you look like me, it’s, ‘You don’t look Latina enough,'” she explained “Why aren’t we on magazines? Why aren’t we on movies? It bothers me. I don’t think you should change the way you look to succeed. It’s my place to let people know, ‘Hey, you are beautiful.'”

As a person who watches way too much TV in English and Spanish I can confirm this. You never see afro-latinos or just darker or browned skin Latinos is Spanish programming. It’s just lighter skinned Latinos and when they are portrayed they’re seen as the help or the villain. When this is the only thing portrayed in shows and in the media it gives the idea that only Latinos with light skin can be successful. I love my culture, but I hate seeing people preaching stuff like ‘viva la raza’ and then degrading people part of their ‘raza’ for having darker skin.

I then asked students about their experiences with colorism.

What are your experiences with colorism?

“Darker skinned Latinos are either always the villian or poor in telenovelas.” said Alondra Cardenas .

How does colorism affect you?

“ It affects people with darker skin more than it affects me.” said Melanie Hernandez.

What do you think about colorism?

“People shouldn’t be treated differently because all people are created equal.” said Kamesha Paredes.

Every culture and place has some sort of bias based on skin color. I guess that’s the beautiful thing about hatred, it can affect anyone no matter what they look like or believe in. The silver lining, however, is that we are not our parents or grandparents. You decide what you think and how you treat people.