BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM.
Content Disclaimer. Please note that some of the words within this document, including the Key Terms section of this ToR are considered highly offensive to People of Colour but we have included them to support difficult discussions around the subject of race and ethnicity to support understanding and evolve thinking with the aim of transformation.
Special Thanks. Shades of Noir would like to extend a special thank to the ToR Support Rayvenn Shaleigha Dâ€™Clark art and Angie Illman as well as Editors Melodie Holliday and Aisha Richards for their contributions of this Terms of Reference Journal.
WITH THANKS TO. Contributors:
Illustrations & Photography:
Phase 5 Shades of Noir Team
Sarah L. Webb
Cover image by Larry Poncho
Aletha M Penrith Arit Emmanuela Beth Consetta Rubel Clare Anyiam-Osigwe Delilah Holliday Denisha Ragland Jay Lee Larry Poncho Mahnoor Hashmi Marc W. Polite Marlon James Monica Majumdar-Choudhary Mulan Itoje Ngâ€™endo Mukii Robert West Sam Kaner Stacey Leigh Ross Suzanne Forbes-Vierling Yesenia Padilla INFO: W: shadesofnoir.org.uk E: firstname.lastname@example.org Tw: @shadesofnoir Fb: shadesofnoir
A Note From The Leads
Sarah L. Webb
22 . 100.
Expanding The Conversation
Further Resources Key terms, Further Reading, Digital Resources
WELCOME. Colourism Definition Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a darker skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Some people are aware of the hierarchies created by white chattel slave owners in America and the Caribbean (Gaspar, 1996). Black women were raped, brutalised and discarded by white chattel slave owners. Children of mixed heritage born from these rapes were then taken from their mothers and deemed “good enough “to work as subservient domestic slaves in the white chattel slave owners house. Thus, created a distinction between the “House nigger” who was often lighter in skin colour and the “field nigger” (JAY-Z, 2016), who was often darker in colour. Chattel owners often used these divisions to create discord among the slaves as the light skinned “house niggers” were afforded certain “luxuries” (Harris, 2008). They were given cast off clothes belonging to the white mistresses, access to food waste and deemed important enough to be able to serve at white chattel owners functions. This produced a hierarchy of importance which was quickly assimilated to represent skin colour and create divisions amongst slaves who outnumbered their white chattel owners and who could very easily if united, overthrow the ruling white classes. I use the word “chattel” (Gabriel, 2007) in this context because of its proximity to the world ‘cattle’. Historically, there has been some confusion about slavery and I would even go as far as to say a romanticism about being kept ‘against one’s will’ which has been played out in numerous depictions of slavery in film and television. Often there is a strange almost fetishtisation and sexualisation that takes place regarding the black male and female body that seeks to subconsciously or unconsciously soften the blow or justify the mass rape, systematic torture and dehumanisation Of Africans. We must remember that slaves were considered subhuman (Thomas, 1998), property, treated no better than the cows we keep today that are kept in lactation so that they continuously produce milk. The European slave trade (Thomas, 1998) was a gargantuan holocaust that even now, has left displaced black people with a multitude of problems which are still being dealt with today. One of these issues is the legacy of colourism which was initially formulated to create division amongst the African diaspora and still wreaks havoc amongst our community (Harris, 2008). Through internalised racism born out of the continued oppression of marginalised groups. We must deal with a world which continuously perpetuates the myth that whiteness epitomises the beauty ideal. The problem is further exacerbated by the continued efforts to 6 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
denigrate and undermine PoC to the fringes and margins of society by continuously showing underachievement and lack of progression by the African diaspora, socially and academically. Added to this, children as young as 5 years old (Black doll White doll, 2016) have been shown to be psychologically damaged when discussing issues relating to their colour or dark skins it could be suggested that this is due in part to negative portrayals of black bodies. See Black doll white doll. (2007) video on YouTube. Despite there toxic ingredients, Skin lightening products are used by many within the African diaspora who are willing to risk ill-health to appear lighter and thus, access certain privileges that they perceive are available to lighter skinned people. I have talked a lot about European chattel enslavement but what is not as well-known is the Arab enslavement of Africans. The selling of black slaves by black slaves is often used as a counter argument to diminish the responsibility of European Chattel slave owners. In her book ‘Layers of Blackness’, Dr Deborah Gabriel discusses racist attitudes in religious texts as well as the chattel enslavement of Africans by the mixed offspring of raped African women by Arab men. In the book the author talks about the hierarchy of colourism that then ensued because the children of those abused women took on the identities of their fathers who had higher social status as a matter of survival. “The inter-mixing of Muslim traders with indigenous Africans produced a lighter-skinned group that formed both the elite of African society as well as the slave trading class” (Gabriel, 2007). References Clark, K & Clark, M. (1940). Black Doll White Doll.(2007). [online video] Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybDa0gSuAcg [Accessed 30 July 2018] Gabriel, D. (2007). Layers of blackness. London: Imani Media Ltd. Gaspar, B.D & Hine, C.D (1996). More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Thomas, H. (1998) The Slave Trade: History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870. London: Macmillan. Z, J. (2016). The Story of O.J.[Digital Download] Roc Nation; Universal BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 7
A NOTE FROM THE LEADS.
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I remember when I was young I heard the term “fair skinned” being used. I can’t remember exactly how old I was. I think that I had just really started to process racism and that was hard enough. This, however, was something else entirely because this was being spoken about by a black person regarding another black person. As if things weren’t bad enough there were more categories! I looked at my arms in contrast and took a long hard look at my face examining my skin tone and wondered where I fit. I eventually decided that unlike my sister who had a yellow tone to her skin my skin had shades of red and I also caught the sun which gave my skin a lovely coppery tone. Back then I don’t think I saw it as lovely because growing up so many things reinforced colorism. Take for example make up when I was growing up there were no makeup brands specifically for people of colour. The choices within the small town where I was living were zero so the red brown tones in my cheeks were flattened to a brown ashy grey pallor for many years until I moved to the city whereupon over the years a few brands came onto the market. I remember the very first time I tried a face powder which was my exact hue and I was overjoyed. I felt liberated and was very grateful to the brand that had taken the time to think of me, it made me feel very included in the world of beauty. Such a small and trivial thing and yet it has a massive impact. Now I have access to a wealth of beautiful shades from quite a few different brands that seem to celebrate women of a variety of hues. So why on earth would someone use harmful skin lightening products? When casting aspersions I need to think back to my own behaviour years ago. Surely it would have been easier to wear no makeup than makeup that was not a great match for my skin tone. But I didn’t, I searched for my own sense of beauty while also being bombarded with representations of the beauty ideal. This was largely from a Eurocentric perspective because I relied very much on a single news agent to purchase a copy of a black hair care and beauty magazine which came into publication around the time of my late teens! I personally find the idea of skin lightening products offensive because not only are they harmful, but whoever produces them must have made the mistaken assumption that I and others like me, would want to be another colour! However, I do not condemn the people that use them because I know how much pressure there is in society to conform to dominant ideologies surrounding beauty. I see skin lightening products as a survival tool which people use to navigate a society which perpetually reinforces the concept that it only values one type of beauty. “If you’re black, stay back; If you’re brown, stick around; If you’re yellow, you’re mellow; If you’re white, you’re all right.” Unknown - Melodie Holiday
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During my MA journey I had to search deep within myself to figure out what I wanted to do and what really mattered to me. This was hard and took a while as I was so used to having to do what I was told to do, no questions asked. From primary school, to secondary school, college, university, jobs and internships, I was conditioned to follow certain paths that would I guess lead me to what’s traditionally classed as “success”. Stand in line. Work hard, go to school, then college, then university, get a good paying job and then B A M you’re successful. You’ve made it. You’ll be happy, fulfilled, your parents will be proud. That’s the narrative we’re sold, especially for us whose parents moved here for a “better” life. That’s not how it went for me anyway, the harder I tried following this blueprint (and trust me I tried, hard) the more I started to lose myself, my own identity, self respect and worth. I found myself trying to adapt, to please, seeking approval from those who I now realise would never value me until I valued myself. I remember when I first graduated from my BA asking my friend who is mixed raced about how I should wear my hair for an interview I had for a company knowing I would most likely be the only black person there, “should I wear a weave or have my real hair in a bun?” He replies telling me to wear it in a bun and something along the lines of me having an English last name means they’ll have an easier time pronouncing it in the office and be happy with that, “White people love that”. That’s how I began to navigate. Attempts at assimilation for survival purposes became my reality “Black and brown bodies have to navigate a tricky territory when working in white spaces. The associated demands are often trivialised partly because assimilation is the default expectation when it comes to whiteness and partly because white supremacy naturally needs to invisibilize the harm it inflicts upon people of colour to naturalise itself.” (Kinouani, 2017) A warped reality that plagued my very existence “Once such (racial) difference enters the workplace, if it does at all, the expectation is usually that it must dress itself in whiteness. This rule is as powerfully enforced as it is enforced tacitly. It is that very rule that dictates that we must remain silent when subjected to racism, that we must adopt organisational narratives, that we must overlook micro-aggressions and generally that we must keep white people comfortable. When there is no space for you to be, self-erasure becomes the modus operandi” (Kinouani, 2017) I started to reflect on my experiences of repeatedly being forced to crop out my hands from product photos that were to be shared on an “affluent” brands instagram page, yet every white hand, face and body was approved instantly whilst a few lighter skinned bodies were acceptable for the brands “Image”. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Activist Jane Elliott “internationally known teacher, lecturer, diversity trainer, and recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education, exposes prejudice and bigotry for what it is, an irrational class system based upon purely arbitrary factors. In response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. over thirty years ago, Jane Elliott devised the controversial and startling, “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise. This, now famous, exercise labels participants as inferior or superior based solely upon the color of their eyes and exposes them to the experience of being a minority. Everyone who is exposed to Jane Elliott’s work, be it through a lecture, workshop, or video, is dramatically affected by it.” (Elliott, n.d) who told me very bluntly that if I wanted to re-enact her famous Blue eye/ Brown eye exercise myself I should say that my father is white. Then it all made sense.
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The closer you are to whiteness, the more privilege an individual is afforded in the system of white supremacy, from my life experience. One of the most obvious forms of this privilege is in skin tone. Not to say that lighter-skinned or Mixed-Race people have it easy in life, but the effects of white supremacy creating the skin tone hierarchy has created another layer of oppression towards people of darker skin tones that unfortunately through no fault of their own people of a lighter skin tone benefit from to an extent. Maybe many people will not understand or relate but women my shade and darker will know almost instantly that Colourism is a thing and it happens daily. There are a few instances of colourism I could list but I already know that there’s no point because of deflection, denial and annoying accusations of delusion. Those of us who experience it get it and those of you who don’t just don’t. Growing tired of repeatedly trying to explain what colourism was to people and observing how it was often confused with racism constantly I wanted to explore ways I could demonstrate it for people to understand. Through my eyes. - Julie Wright
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1. What is the impact of white supremacy and racism on colourism? 2. What role does religion play in perpetuating racist stereotypes regarding the concepts of blackness and /or anti blackness? 3. How were social hierarchies created among enslaved Africans by slave chattel owners and what was the intended outcome of such actions? 4. In what way can we see the impact of colonialism on marginalised communities of displaced people.? 5. How does scientific racism influence or contribute to colourism? 6. Does skin tone influence educational and employment outcomes for descendants of Africa living in the UK? 7. How does whiteness present itself in the beauty industry? 8. Are skin lightening creams and procedures like them an act of self-hatred or a mis-guided means of survival? 9. How does colourism present itself in South East Asia? 10. What is the impact of colonialism in the caste system for communities in the UK?
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Shades of Noir has been pleased to invite Sarah L. Webb to peer review this Terms of Reference. Sarah L. Webb is a Ph.D. candidate in English who studies intersections of race, gender, literacy, and technology. In 2013, Sarah founded the website Colorism Healing through which she hosts annual writing contests, publishes books, and provides information and resources related to colorism. She has been a professional writer, teacher, and mentor since 2007, working in a range of industries such as universities, non-profits, small businesses, K-12 public education, magazines, and TV news. Her writing has been published in numerous places online, such as For Harriet and Blavity, and in print books and magazines such as Teaching Tolerance and Dig.
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A NOTE FROM SARAH L. WEBB. What it really takes to End Colorism Whether you’ve known about colorism your entire life, or you’re just hearing about it for the first time, the inevitable question is: What can we do about it? Well, there’s no easy answer or quick fix. Colorism is as complicated as any other social problem. But we must start somewhere. The fact that you’re reading this issue of Terms of Reference is a good sign that we can and will make progress in our collective efforts to stop the cycle of colorism. The simple act of informing ourselves about colorism and actively engaging in the conversation is a core piece of the puzzle. Here, however, I want to talk less about what to do and more about what it takes, which builds a foundation for the doing. In this issue of ToR, you’ll see one of the most diverse and thorough assemblages of works on colorism currently available. The writers provide unique insights on colorism through diverse perspectives of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, history, and more. At the same time, the multi-genre, multi-media lenses help us break our usual habits of thinking about and discussing colorism. In the five years since I’ve committed to publicly advocating to stop colorism, I’ve found that there is work we must do within ourselves before we can even begin to study and discuss the problem. In other words, we have to properly position ourselves to effectively address colorism. Over the years, here’s what I’ve observed in the people who step up and respond effectively to colorism. Many of the pieces you will read later in this ToR issue are great examples. Courage and Honesty Courage and honesty must be at the core of everything we say and do in the struggle to end colorism. Colorism is still one of those “controversial” issues that many people passionately disagree about. Every day I encounter people who react with anger and contempt to conversations about colorism. If you’re not ready or willing to deal with criticism, personal attacks, confrontation, and maybe even loss of relationships, then you won’t be effective in this fight. It’s going to take courage to speak up in a group of strangers or friends or family and denounce colorism. And it takes courage to be honest. We can’t heal unless we know precisely what needs to be healed. Are we expressing insecurities about ourselves, or prejudices against others? Have we been hurt by someone? Or have we been the one to hurt others? Are we afraid to say how we really feel because of what others are going to think or say? Several of the pieces in ToR, uncover past pain and reveal how chronic hurt impacts daily life and relationships. Addressing colorism requires courage, first and foremost, BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 15
because once we dig into the issue we will discover some painful truths about past hurts and our own ongoing complicity. But dig we must, so let’s proceed. Whole Communities An extremely valuable feature of the works presented here is the cross-cultural framework they collectively provide, providing perspectives ranging from the United States, to Australia, to Europe, and the Carribean. No matter what race or color, we have all been complicit in perpetuating colorism. Usually, when we talk about colorism in general conversations, we’re limited to the individual, interpersonal experience. Sometimes we only think of colorism as “that girl’s insecurity,” or “that girl’s low self-esteem,” or “that girl’s jealousy.” We often think of healing from colorism as “teaching dark-skinned people to love themselves.” But the global diversity represented in these articles demonstrates that the problem is much bigger than that. Colorism is not just a personal problem. Colorism is a social problem, an international one. Colorism influences a society’s legal system, politics, educational system, healthcare system, crime and violence, and media. No social problem can exist or cease to exist without community level action. Teaching dark brown people to love themselves is a worthy and necessary goal, but it’s often a cop-out for doing the additional, more difficult work of teaching the entire society to love dark brown people. Would we solve racism by merely teaching black and brown people to love themselves? Would we solve sexism by merely telling women they just need to love themselves? Would we solve homophobia by merely telling gays and lesbians to just take pride in who they are? You can love yourself all you want and still be negatively impacted by colorism in the larger society. All the self-love in the world won’t stop a kid from getting shot and killed because of how someone else perceives them. Now, I’m all for self-love. I really am. But too often we pretend like that alone is the answer to colorism. Perhaps we’re too afraid, too self-absorbed, or too lazy to confront the rest of the problem. In order to really heal from colorism, we must seek to address it at the community level (just like we do with racism, sexism, or crime, etc.) and stop centering the problem and its solutions on the people who suffer from it. Whole Families I could have lumped this into the community section, but it’s such an important and complex piece of the puzzle that it needs to be singled out. For many people, the earliest and clearest ideas about skin color, hair texture, and facial features come from family members. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Although a lot of people point to the media as a primary factor in colorism, I think what goes on in our families is even more important. When we consume media, we’re merely observing strangers. Although those images are powerful, discrimination within our own families is actually a lived experience that directly involves us and those we have intimate relationships with, making it that much more painful and traumatic. And our generational legacies of colorism get passed down through both biology and nurturing. We see and hear from writers and artists in the following pages how relationships with 16 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
family members shaped their pivotal experiences with colorism early in life. Some of the writers here tell stories of generational trauma as well as breaking the familial cycle. The family’s role in healing colorism is twofold. First, families must say and do as many positive things as possible to promote self-love and affirm the worth and beauty of all family members. Second, families must openly and lovingly address instances of colorism whenever they happen. Ignoring, laughing off, or excusing an act of colorism is just as bad as committing an act of colorism. Most of us just let tough or potentially confrontational situations slip by without saying anything. But in the words of Audre Lorde: “Your silence will not protect you.” And it certainly will not help to end colorism. Many victims of colorism within families believe they have no voice and no ally. You can be the courageous person in your family who saves your niece, nephew, cousin, daughter, son, brother, or sister by affirming them and standing up for them whenever you see colorism happening. Individuals In order to heal families and communities, we must heal ourselves. You know how the saying goes: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Until we deal with our own individual issues, whether it’s prejudice or insecurity, we’re likely to continue spreading the germ of colorism. The world doesn’t need our colorism germs. Throughout this ToR issue, we witness individuals who have held themselves accountable. They have taken the responsibility to reflect and communicate their truths through various media. Each contributor is a real example of what stepping up, of what doing something looks like. In other words, the doing is as different as the doers. Persistent Action Over Time I saved this one for last because if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably committed to actually working to end colorism. This will separate those who think colorism is an interesting topic for discussion from those, like you, who are ready to do something to end it. When I talk to some people about colorism, they seem shocked that this is still going on. I question that reaction because we all know that problems don’t just go away on their own. What makes these people think that colorism should have just evaporated overtime all by itself? The world needs you to help put an end to colorism. Now that you know what it really takes, are you up for the challenge?
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Data Source: Www4.hku.hk, 2018. 18 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
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Data Source: Bridges, 2018. 20 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
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EXPANDING THE CONVERSATION. 22 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
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BLACKOUT: KINGSTON 12, JAMAICA.
MARLON JAMES, AWARD WINNING PHOTOGRAPHER & WRITER, EDNA MANLEY COLLEGE OF THE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS (ALUMNI).
In an effort to access what they perceive as a more desirable level of society – one typically defined by light complexions – darker-skinned persons in Jamaica’s innercity communities have started the dangerous and controversial practice of skin bleaching to lighten their skin tones. This process, which involves harmful and potentially lethal chemicals, can cause significant damage and anomalies to their complexions. The practice has been carried out for decades, but has become more mainstream in the past five years, most notably in 2011 when Jamaican dancehall artist, Vybz Kartel, likened bleaching, which he practices and condones, to simply another element of style.
pictured here, I questioned their motivations for bleaching. The majority couldn’t give a straight answer. A few said they didn’t really know, it was just for style, while others said, simply, that it increased their confidence – they felt that they looked better with lighter skin. The inclination here is to read deeper – to suggest that these sentiments are perhaps born out of a flawed concept of beauty that prevails in Jamaica and throughout the majority of images put forward globally through advertising. But then again, perhaps there is merit in taking the words and motivations of these adolescents at face value.
Instead of readily denouncing bleaching, this photographic project was conceived as an avenue of understanding of the practice, and a means of attempting to highlight a certain kind of beauty where many see none. While photographing the small group of adolescents
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INTERVIEW WITH MULAN ITOJE.
MODEL & FOUNDER OF SPRING MELANIN.
For those who may not know, you could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hi my name is Mulan, I recently set up an event, a well being event called spring melanin for the purpose of Dark skinned women. Specifically for Dark skinned women to attend. The purpose is for nurturing healing conversation and relaxation. A bit more background about myself, I graduated with a law degree, went into modelling and since I’ve been in the industry for about eight years I’ve done creative direction, art direction, management, PR & marketing so from dabbling in the industry I decided to set up an agency and also put together this event call Spring Melanin
As a dark skinned black woman do you feel your experience in the world is different when compared to others? Definitely, I think my experience is (obviously as an individual there’s a lot of things to consider) my shade in particular especially with modelling made my experience a lot different from my other friends who were white or mixed race or light skinned. I remember a casting director said to me “oh your features are very commercial but your skin is so dark” and I was just like “What does that mean? What do you mean my features are commercial but my skin is dark” How do they not go together in that sense? How can my skin not be commercial but if you look in the media you will know from the lack of representation that it obviously isn’t considered commercial but I’m here! So yeah my experience has been very different
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What is Spring Melanin & who is it for? Spring melanin is a well being day event it starts at 12pm and finishes at 6pm the first half is relaxation, meditation, conversation, self-care workshops, spirituality, tarot readings, massages, manicurist, so its very much about relaxing the mind as well as the body so that you can be far more open and vulnerable. The second half is about panel talks, industry talks. So the first theme was about womb health and we had someone who has their own organisation for womb health come in and give a talk about the different types of issues that you can have with your womb and hormones and those types of invisible illnesses which a lot of people like to pretend don’t exist because they can’t see them but the people who suffer from them are suffering in silence so I needed to bring some awareness to that. The second talk we had was about life coaching and giving each other tips on how to self-motivate and how to get yourself up and out of bed everyday especially as dark skin women who face a lot of oppression and just being at the butt of everyone’s jokes, being undervalued & underpaid so its mostly about uplifting and empowering young women like myself who have existed in a world that acts as if we don’t exist and has a lot of negative connotations attached to our skin tone/shade. We close with an act, so like a performance artist and for the launch we had an amazing spoken word artist called Dylema “Do you let every man adapt” and she’s very much about women’s empowerment, empowerment poems and her spoken word is incredible. It brought a very nice close to Spring Melanin and there will be more Spring Melanin
every other month, its an event for dark skinned women to discuss different issues in regards to existing in a world like this. Where would you like to see Spring Melanin go from here? I want spring melanin to be international, I think it’s needed everywhere in the world. It happens across borders. It happens not only in Africa and the Caribbean which a lot of people think it only happens there, it happens in Brazil, it also happens in Asia. There are a lot of dark skin asian people, dark skin hispanic people who you don’t think exist because you’ve never seen them until you travel into the country and see them so I would love to have Spring Melanin in all these types of places to empower these people and allow them to feel confidence to be in the centre, be in the spotlight they deserve to be. Which creatives would you like to collaborate with? I would love to collaborate with anyone who’s all about women’s empowerment, intersectional feminism, people who understand the nuances within the black community, within black women, racism, colourism, shades. I would like to collaborate with artists and businesses who have the same ethos as me and spring melanin. We’ve also got so much to learn from each other that I would like to gain a lot by collaborating because I’m not perfect and no one is. Working with new people who have the same kind of ethics, that’s what I want.
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COLOURISM IN FASHION.
JULIE WRIGHT, SHADES OF NOIR.
How can garments create an experience that teaches its wearers about the effects of colourism? The purpose of the garments is to represent the different skin tones that play a role in the colourism hierarchy. Originally they were made so guests could try them on as a way of feeling the different experiences of each skin tone instead of having it explained to them. As part of the design, the texture and look of the garments feel and look like real human skin and as a guest tries each one on, the weight on the shoulders from the lightest shade to the darkest changes i.e. the lightest shade feels light and comfortable whilst the darkest shade feels the heaviest and the most uncomfortable garment to wear out of all three, therefore creating a subtle metaphor that articulates the experiences of the different skin tones. After testing this at my end of year degree show, I learned that an exhibition would be a more effective and inclusive way for everyone to understand the purpose of my project as not everyone could fit the garments I created and missed the point. This will hopefully be happening later this year. thejuliearchive.com Styling & Design: Julie Wright Photography: Isaac Kariuki Hair & Makeup: Joanna Queenton Models: Anthanasie Eva Munyaneza, Lakilah Davies-Tetteh, Chloe Barclay
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REACTION TO DARK GIRLS FROM A LIGHT-SKINNED BLACK MAN.
ROBERT WEST, WRITER.
“Can you believe that’s his cousin? Look at how black she is.” Those words, delivered by my third-grade teacher jolted me from the idyllic world that children should be afforded, and catapulted me into a world where the issues of racism and colorism would often consume me. This is the story of how an attack against a “dark girl” left a light-skinned black man emotionally scarred. Before going any further, let me say that I speak of my experiences only, and the complexity of my experiences and sentiments would require much more space than the Huffington Post would allow. Also, that expressed may leave you baffled, and uttering “That’s crazy!” Indeed, constructs such as racism and colorism can reduce one to a state of frustration, confusion and despair, one that when trying to explain their impact, leaves you vulnerable to those who don’t understand, and stuck constantly trying to make order of the internal conflicts one may experience. My mother gave birth to eleven children, with me being the baby of the bunch. My siblings range in skin tone from Denzel Washington to Grace Jones. Then, there’s me... someone who is often said to resemble Steven Seagal, or thought of as Samoan or a fair-skinned Latino. I often seemingly disappoint people by answering “Black” to
the question “What are you?” Over and over, I find myself having to defend my answer, with me usually wanting to exclaim: “I’m not choosing to be Black you nitwit, I am Black!” At the age of five, my family moved into public housing in Fort Pierce, Florida. Our residency there was a magical time for me. In addition to the housing being a huge improvement over our previous abode, it gave us an opportunity to mingle with our extended family, who lived across the street, on a daily basis. The same age as I, my cousin Kim, whose hue is the darkest ebony you can imagine, was my constant companion during this time. I recognized I looked different, but within my family, one looking different didn’t equate to one being better. In third-grade, Kim and I were assigned to the same classroom. I couldn’t have been happier because this meant I’d have family with me all the day long. One day while walking down the halls of Chester A. Moore Elementary School while being escorted by our teacher, Mrs. Logan, we had to yield to the oncoming class passing in front of us. While stopped, our teacher and another teacher had a brief exchange, which at one point, Mrs. Logan summoned Kim and I out of the line. In front of the other teacher and our fellow classmates, Mrs. Logan asked the other teacher, “Can you believe that’s
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his cousin? Look at how Black she is.” At that time, I wasn’t able to process this on my own, as I had never been taunted because of my skin color. However, closely eyeing my cousin, I could see a look of shame and hurt come across her face; she obviously had been taunted. It was through her that I realized what Mrs. Logan said was mean and disparaging. From that day on, I decided to give her hell, so much hell that I became a constant fixture in the principal’s office. In one day, she single-handedly halted my age of innocence. She taught me that the world thinks black is bad, and I hated her for shattering the belief I maintained of looking just like my brothers, all of whom my neighborhood thought was the cat’s meow. That moment in the third-grade launched me into a life-time of pain. While stopping short of saying it caused me to hate myself, it did cause me to question if I was worthy of being Black. It was in that moment that I became closer to my people, but also began distancing myself from who I am. It is (I want to say “was,” but alas...) a pain that I’ve endured since that day. At much too early of an age, I found myself assessing how I was treated versus my darker-skinned siblings; I started being consumed by how total strangers were treated at the supermarket, church or department stores; I began obsessively looking for dark-skinned people on television (wrote to Black Entertainment Television as a kid because Donnie Simpson was the only “darkskinned” person on air, and truly thought I was responsible for Bev Smith appearing a few years later with “Our Voices”); and, lastly, I began to shun any semblance of kindness extended to me, because I just knew it was
because I’m light-skinned. I still cringe when I receive compliments about my skin or hair, and still feel very uncomfortable with anyone referring to me as handsome. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of a compliment, but more of a belief that those of a darker hue are not as apt to receive such random praises. Oh yes, for years, the impact of that day wreaked havoc on my psyche and spirit. Upon seeing a light-skinned couple holding hands, I would go as far as to question the legitimacy and sincerity of their union: Were they together to have “light” babies? Do they think their better than others? It was rare that I’d allow myself to entertain the thought that they could simply be in love with each other. No longer with any desire to be a parent (that may change again), I once dreamt of adopting five dark girls, and raising them to be proud queens who would be brave enough to challenge anyone who questioned their beauty or ability. I used to joke that no one would like my little girls, because they would be so unaccustomed to a clan of unapologetic fierce “dark girls” that it would frighten the heck out of them. Of course, I was giving myself too much credit in naively thinking I could raise five little dark girls without having them experience the sting of racism and colorism, but I wanted to rear five little Kims (referring to my cousin, not the rapper who clearly is a victim of colorism) who would never hang their heads in shame. Fortunately, I’ve known “dark girls” who exemplify everything that I once dreamed of; if only they could be more visible (hear me media), the work of inspiring other ebony sisters would be seamless.
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In my desire to prove to others that I was worthy of being Black, and that I wasn’t one of those Negroes (you know, the kind often referred to as uppity), I have had to work very hard to deny the privileges that come along with being a light-skinned person. To convince others, and myself, I wasn’t “one of those,” I found myself bashing those who looked like me, and after almost thirty years on earth, I realized I was bashing myself as well. That realization, instead of being an opportunity to overcome the pain of colorism, proved to be a revelation that required even more work to navigate. While no longer putting myself down, what I see others experience still takes a toll on me. Consciously, I rebelled against the notion that “light was right,” something that wasn’t so difficult because subconsciously for as long as I can remember, when I closed my eyes and imagined beauty, I thought of those who were of a much darker hue. I remember finding one of my brother’s girlie magazine and seeing a picture of a nude Grace Jones. She became the beauty standard of ALL women for me, not just black women. Hell, looking back, I’m most positive she became the beauty standard for men in my life as well, only supplanted by a strappy fellow named Michael Strahan in recent years (Shhh ... don’t tell my husband). Once while hailing a cab with my best-friend, a brown-skinned brother, we experienced taxi after taxi bypass us only to pick up passengers just beyond us, something most visibly black people can relate to. Finally, he said, “Let me back up and let you get the cab.” I responded by saying that wasn’t the reason, knowing good and damn well it was, but did so because I wanted him to know that I didn’t enjoy being the one able to get the cab. I didn’t want him to think that I reveled in the privilege of my light, bright and damn near white complexion. I’m married to a man shades darker than myself, my heart aches when others choose to look right through him only to address me. Fortunately, my husband has informed me that this type of behavior is
not his problem, nor should it be mine. He’s made it clear that I don’t have to apologize, or get angry for the ignorance promulgated by others. I wish I could say I take his advice, but his words have served as a calming force. I remember a time in the ‘90s when there were a bevy of black models that emerged upon the fashion scene. Those like Roshumba, Naomi Campbell, Beverly Peele, Cynthia Bailey and Tyson Beckford were ever present. I remember folks joking about “light-skinned brothers making a comeback,” a quip that was a nod to the undeniable interest in all things dark chocolate. This was an era, at least in New York City, where light-skinned brothers were constantly teased about being “out of style.” I remember sitting in a bar on Christopher Street when a beautiful dark-skinned brother came through the door, and every head turned in unison to behold this fine specimen of a being. I recall thinking, “Oh, how the tides have turned;” so thrilled that a dark-skinned brother could command that amount of attention. It was around this time that I decided to finally give a light-skinned brother a shot. I dated a devilishly goodlooking fellow who was also a Southerner like me. In that relationship, I found myself a part of the very charade I mentioned earlier in this article. My partner was colorstruck, which revealed the real reason he dated me: Somehow, the fool thought two broke ass light-skinned men made a power couple. Go figure! He would say things that would make my skin crawl; things that would take me back to the third-grade, and eventually, I “proved too Black for his taste.” Though neither dark nor a girl, I’ve never forgotten the struggle of what it is to be dark girl. The pain they experience has, in many ways, become my own. In attempting to explain this once, I likened it to the pain the sister May, from the book and movie “The Secret Life of Bees,” would take on upon hearing of another’s tragedy. All these
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years, I’ve been trying to take that pain away from Kim; trying to take that pain away from all black girls. For weeks, I had been waiting to watch what appeared to be a fascinating and brutally honest discussion about skin color in this country, specifically among Black Americans. In preparation for watching Dark Girls directed and produced by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network, I found that all-too-familiar knot returning to my stomach. It has been ever-present since Mrs. Logan walked into my life. Knowing what this topic can conjure up in me, I decided to “do the work” before watching; reminding myself that it would not send me back from whence I came. Hearing that little girl featured in the documentary and commercials saying “I don’t like to be called black,” elicited so many emotions from me. So, almost two weeks after watching the documentary, and even with the hoopla surrounding Paula Deen, the intrigue of Edward Snowden, the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case, the illness of Nelson Mandela and the fall of DOMA, I found myself coming back to that little girl. She gave me the courage to share this story, this part of me that’s so difficult to talk about, with the world. That little girl and all the others featured in the film, by simply having the conversation in such a candid and “keeping it real” kind of way, allowed that knot in my stomach to loosen, even if ever so slightly.
mentality was not solely indicative of black Americans; it was not something we were necessarily choosing to perpetuate, rather something we are struggling to emerge from. What I have learned through my own life and conversations with others is that a privilege is only such if there is some type of pleasure derived from it. For those of us with a strong affinity for our cultural heritage, a crack anywhere in a mirror projects a painful image of ourselves. So, when I hear of a “dark girl” being broken by the stupidity racism and colorism produces, my world seems shattered, too.
In the work I do as a social worker and community activist, I partake in many conversations revolving around white privilege, something many, including other light-skinned ethnic people can commiserate about days on end, but when I dare mention the privilege experienced from being a fairer hue, the discomfort and denial, though unspoken, is quite palpable. This paradigm is global, and the pervasiveness of it around the world in some odd way helped me with the healing process. Once that was revealed to me, it was a relief to know that such a BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 39
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YELLOW FEVER. NG’ENDO MUKII, FILM DIRECTOR.
My film, Yellow Fever, focuses on the effect of media-created ideals on African women and their perception of beauty. Our media is saturated with beauty ideals that are hard to attain, often unhealthy and increasingly, harp towards Western media’s current concepts of beauty. Ideals to which many African women do not fit. In my film, I consider the things that we, as African women, practice in an effort to try and attain these homogenised / globalised beauty ideals. These include chemically straightening our hair, the use of hair weaves, skin ‘brightening’ (bleaching), etc. I was particularly interested in discovering where the root of this pressure lays.
politically and physically was crucial and I represented this through dance and pixilation (stop motion using people). I experimented quite a bit with the pixilation, and got some unexpected results with the bodies creating some disturbing and beautiful movements. You can watch Yellow Fever here: www.vimeo.com/ngendo/yellowfever
I realised we are only products of our society. Since our media perpetuates singular ideals to girls and women, and we consume this information continuously from a young age, how can we fault anyone who is susceptible to these ideals (men included), without challenging the institutions that are creating them? The title of the film is based on a Fela Kuti song, Yellow Fever, that attacks women who use skin-bleaching products (with the reduction of melanin, the skin turns a yellowy tone). However, I use it to underline what I see as a mediainduced psychological condition, not very different to anorexia, bulimia, and other body-dysmorphic disorders that are recognised by medical institutions. It took a lot of experimentation to come up with the general look and feel of Yellow Fever. The subject of the film deals closely with the skin and the feeling of being trapped within one’s body. The issue of skin BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 41
VISUAL ARTIST, MARYLAND INSTITUTE COLLEGE OF ART (ALUMNI).
In the early 1980’s, I had a huge interest in science fiction and fantasy. This oddly fascinating subject dominated my work. Around that time that I also fell in love with the airbrush. I had just graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Soon after graduation, I began to have an urge to produce works that were a reflection of me, and some of the visions, and issues in my head, which my earlier works never accomplished. For awhile the prospect had me staring into blank canvas. It was as if I had nothing to say. I recalled a discussion I had with a much lighter skinned lady friend, where we debated who had the toughest childhood being BLACK with regard to skin tone in the 70’s. I remember that conversation getting a little heated at times, but for the sake of our friendship, we both shifted into neutral. Soon after, I did a few sketches exploring that concept, with our conversation echoing deep into my spirit. It begged the question; How do we deal with the subject of racism and prejudice, when we practice it within our own group? It was 30 years ago that I attempted to open dialogue about a subject of much family debate and conversation. The result was a piece I tilted “Black Is Black.” Created in 1988. In 1992, I would go on to create a male version to complete the series. In the female version, the figures were from my imagination, but I utilized models for the male version, and would become my only published self portrait. The entire colorism series was created with airbrushing. This series was later expanded to 11 works.
Artists never know in advance, which of their works will become their best seller. In fact, when I first presented “Black Is Black” to Things Graphics and Fine Art, who historically became the largest African American owned art publisher, I was first told that the piece would never sell, because it was not rendered in a traditional medium. In frustration, I took a gamble and decided to self publish the image. The piece would quickly become one of the top 5 best selling black art prints in the nation. The subject of colorism hadn’t been depicted in art. The “Black Is Black” series would become the first reproductions of its kind to visually and dynamically address the subject of colorism, while garnering huge commercial success, and a fan following. Released as open editions, the series were designed to be accessible, affordable works of art. It also became one of my most licensed images to date having been produced in book covers, calendars, puzzles, watches, tee shirts, and several other product lines. The rest, they say, is history. Soon thereafter television shows like “A Different World” would include it on the set of the show. Overnight it became mainstream, with a huge HBCU following. The message resonated with folks of all skin tones. I felt a sense redemption that the piece had been received so well. I had once again proved my naysayers wrong. “The melanated people add beauty to the world with their various tones and hues, and without them, life would be a bland cultural and visual experience.” - Larry Poncho Brown
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THE SUFFERING OF THE OTHER.
DENISHA RAGLAND, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE (ALUMNI). The Suffering of the Other: Why “Darker” People’ Suffer Most. The Difference of Treatment Although, Colonialism and Imperialism began in two different time periods the way in which they treated the Natives and the Africans were similar. In both instances, the Natives and Africans were below the Europeans in the social hierarchy. Although, both Natives and Africans were considered underneath the Europeans socially, economically, and politically, during both Colonialism and Imperialism, Natives and Africans were treated differently. Within the social hierarchy there was even more stratification of hierarchy underneath the Europeans. In the hierarchy’s most basic form the Europeans were at the top, the Natives were second, and the Africans were last. When the Europeans first sailed to the Americas they saw the Natives as inferior due to their darkness of skin, way of life, and abnormal practices. Due to their differences and the European desire of their land, the Europeans enslaved the Natives. Although, the groups of people seemed starkly different, the Europeans were able to pick up on the intelligence and sophistication of the Natives (Kanopy: Skinn Deep, 2015). The slavery of the Natives eventually came to an end largely due to the humanitarian efforts of Bartolome De Las Casa (Tickel, 2008). Las Casas was a historian and a theologist who was aboard the ship of Christopher Columbus’s during his first voyage (“Las Casas, Bartolomé De (1474–1566). At first glance Las Casas paid no attention to the economic system set up by the Spaniards
(“Las Casas, Bartolomé De (1474–1566)). It was not until Las Casas witnessed some of the atrocities committed by the Spaniards, that he thought differently of the system (Tickel, 2008). After witnessing the atrocities Las Casas became a defender of the Indians, and returned to Spain to plead the case of the Natives to King Ferdinand II ((“Las Casas, Bartolomé De (1474– 1566)). It was not until 1542 when his efforts paid off and the enslavement of the Natives became illegal (Tickel, 2008). As an alternative of the slave labor of Natives Las Casas suggested that they use Africans as slaves, thus satisfying the social hierarchy of Natives and Africans (Tickel, 2008). Las Casas suggestion for the slave labor of Africans became the catalyst for the difference of treatment and categorization of the Natives and the Africans. After Las Casas suggestion, the Natives were no longer called slaves but indigenous and the Africans were completely regarded as slaves. The emergence of different names for the Natives and Africans meant that the Europeans no longer saw the Natives and the Africans as one of the same, but different sets of “people”. The Natives were able to live a life freer than the enslaved Africans, but they were not as free as the white Europeans. The difference of treatment and the stratification of the social order became convoluted once there was the mixing of races. When the Europeans sailed to the Americas they sailed with small numbers. The small numbers of Europeans were outnumbered by Africans and sometime Natives. Since the Natives were dying off at an alarming rate and lack of European women, the European men would mix with
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both the Natives and Africans violently and rarely with consent (Russell-Cole, K., Wilson, Midge, & Hall, Ronald E. (2013)). Although, it seemed peculiar for Europeans, mainly Spanish and Portuguese, to mix with people that they thought less than them, they had no aversion to the mixing, because of the drastic varying skin tones present in Spain and Portugal (Russell-Cole, K., Wilson, Midge, & Hall, Ronald E. (2013)). Not only was there a mixing between Europeans and Natives and Europeans and Africans, there was also the mixing of Natives and Africans (Russell-Cole, K., Wilson, Midge, & Hall, Ronald E. (2013)). With the mixing of races happening quite frequently there was a rise in the population of racially mixed people with varying shades. The racially mixed people that arose from the coupling of Europeans and Natives or Europeans and Africans were treated drastically different from the homogenous Natives and Africans or the racial mix of Natives and Africans. Those whose heritage of both Native and African were treated like the beast of burdens the same as their parents. Those who were racially mixed between European and Native or European and African were treated with a status that was much higher than the Natives or Africans but still lower than the Europeans (Russell-Cole, K., Wilson, Midge, & Hall, Ronald E. (2013)). The reason behind this status was because they were of lighter skin and descendants of Europeans. As the race mixing continued over the years it became harder to differentiate between who had European ancestry and who did not. Since it became harder to tell who had past European ancestor, the color of his/her skin became the indicator of his/her past
ancestry. Those whose ethnicity was racially ambiguous became known as “mulattoes” -- also known as a slur in modern times in certain areas of the world. If a person’s skin tone was white then they gained the status or benefits of a European, if a person’s skin was of a light brownish color or considered “mulatto” were freed and gained certain status, while those with darker skin were treated as slaves (Russell-Cole, K., Wilson, Midge, & Hall, Ronald E., 2013). Citation: Ragland, Denisha, “The Suffering of the Other: Why “Darker” People’ Suffer Most” (2017). University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects. http://trace.tennessee.edu/ utk_chanhonoproj/2122
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MARC W. POLITE, WRITER, THE CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK (ALUMNI).
Color Struck: The Politics of Shade in The Black Community. The issue of colorism in the Black community is once again raised. This time, it is by the upcoming documentary “Dark Girls” by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. This film deals with how dark-skinned women are at times less valued then lighter complected women, and how that can play itself out in various forms. Be it the latest music video, or what is considered beautiful, these sort of appraisals can shatter the self-esteem of those deemed “less than.” Though it is a difficult conversation to have, I look forward to seeing this documentary and how these intra-racial divisions will be addressed. However, I do have something to add to this conversation. There is a tendency that I have noticed, that when dealing with issues of colorism, you would think that this issue does not affect Black men. While I can tell you from first hand experience that it does, I definitely understand why some Black men choose not to engage the topic. For those of us who were and still are to some extent impacted by colorism, it represents something you are just supposed to “go through” as a child and “get over it.” Not exactly in a rush to violate the high ideals of being emotionally impervious, some Black men prefer to not talk about the ways in which they have been judged and mis-judged for being “the wrong shade” In fact, I read an interesting post about it this weekend. On filmmaker Olu Gittens blog she also talks about the upcoming documentary, and makes great points about what is often overlooked. Instead of looking “bitter” this is one issue
that we tend to clam up on. Self included, honestly. I won’t re-tell to you some of the spiteful things that have been said to me as a dark-skinned fellow, because I don’t want to empower those mis-educated voices. I did have issues with self-perception due to my complexion, but thankfully I shed them as I got older. I have cut everybody loose who made me feel less than for the simple reason of what shade I am. That’s how I dealt with it. But I can tell you that it was no cake-walk being my hue back in the day. When you are regarded as more “dangerous” and menacing because of your skin shade, that ain’t a good feeling. It makes you at times go overboard to put people at ease around you. If you have ever had someone tell you that you don’t seem “approachable” well, that’s something that can stick with you for more than a lil bit. There is another reason why this is not a topic of comfort. We do it to one another. Yes, colorism comes from slavery, but much like the preview video to Dark Girls says, we keep it going. This is one issue that remains exclusively at our feet. We can write all the books and make all the films we want, but if we do not stop this grade by shade nonsense, it will be pointless. I would encourage us to drop this “Our Kind of People” way of thinking, but it has to reach far beyond just those of us who are aware of these things. It would take a complete change in values of the Black community to uproot this notion. Only then would our darker brothers and sisters begin to feel comfortable in their own skin, literally.
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KERIAN PREDDIE, SHADES OF NOIR.
Colourism is a form of discrimination based on skin tones, it is a divisive behaviour that’s roots can be found in the famous letters of Willie Lynch (Lynch, W. 2014) and the now inherited effects on the conscience of black men and women today. A sickness based on programming and language that often wrongfully dehumanise black women, failing to address how we as black men consciously and unconsciously perpetuate negative stereotypes. Colour privilege, is something that some black people first encounter in the household, within our culturally ‘safe spaces’, jokes and passing comments about the darkness of someone’s skin and the overlapping size of features are deemed to be unfortunate characteristics. Which as a young child changed the way I saw other darker toned people, and how I saw myself in relation to my community. A study was conducted by CCN called ‘Skin Colour - The Way Kids See It’. Renowned child psychologist and University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer, a leading researcher in the field of child development, was hired as a consultant by CNN. Spencer aimed to re-create the landmark Doll Test from the 1940s, which would highlight colour bias in young children. A young black girl said; “I just don’t like the way brown looks, because brown looks really nasty for some reason, but i don’t know what reason.” Another young black girl was asked to pick who she felt was the ‘ugliest’ from five different images of different shades ranging from black to
white. When she was asked to pick the ugly child, she pointed to the darkest complexion and said “its because she is black”. As a child I was often told, I have a “nice complexion”, a comment which always made me uncomfortable despite who it came from. This false sense of empowerment was my entry point to broader questions of selfhate. Although I realised this measurement of identification was wrong, I began to see myself as different, and notice though not ‘light skinned’, was less threatening in whites spaces and more desirable to women in and outside the black community. As a young person with no real agency, this becomes a tool, one used to navigate through a ‘system’. Often within open dialogue Colourism or Shadism as a sickness has not given men and young boys the same opportunity to open up about their pain, and the pressures it has on relationships with other men. The more widely acceptable tokenisation of black men means that deep-rooted issues of acceptance as a neodiaspora only feeds what are considered social and political slights of identity and blackness. Which makes colourism such a complex notion as the condition itself is conditioned by the prevailing culture. Spenser’s study has identity as the most important factor for us as a people going forward. That this starts in our homes with the language we use to define ourselves and others, and this starts at a very young age. The only way to combat these multi-textured ideals of identification is to continue to have discussions, and to consistently challenge the nuances of a Eurocentric culture.
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BROWN PAPER BAG. BETH CONSETTA RUBEL, VISUAL ARTIST, B.F.A. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS (ALUMNI).
Beth Consetta Rubel is a visual artist based in Austin. She discusses her upbringing as a mixed race Black woman living in a conservative small Southern town in Texas, and how this informed both her identity and creative work. Rubel’s work focuses on the themes of race, gender, sexuality, and pop culture. This is evident in her current series, “The Paper Bag Test,” where she draws and paints portraits of Black subjects—many of them well-known Black celebrities and public figures, such as President Barack Obama and Richard Pryor. In light of the recent cases of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence against Black men, women, and children, she’s also included portraits of Michael Brown and Aiyana Stanley Jones in the series. “After slavery ended in the U.S., colorism didn’t disappear. In black America, those with light-skin received employment opportunities off limits to darker-skinned African Americans. This is why upperclass families in black society were largely light-skinned. Soon light skin and privilege were considered one in the same in the black community, with light skin being the sole criterion for acceptance into the black aristocracy. Upper crust blacks routinely administered the brown paper bag test to determine if fellow blacks were light enough to socialize with.” (Nittle, 2018)
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INTERVIEW: CLARE ANYIAM-OSIGWE.
FILM DIRECTOR & ACTRESS.
For those who may not know you could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
beans on toast for the rest of my life or actually I can use some of my other skills
My name is Clare Anyiam-Osigwe and I am quite a lot of things. I guess I started as a Drama TV graduate who was a part-time makeup artist working at the Body Shop and Bobbi Brown, then after I graduated I was a working actress so I started doing parts on TV for ITV and Sky. I realised quickly, I carried on training I went to Lamda and Identity drama school, it didn’t matter how much you trained it was really about who you know and whether you were cast-able. So I just thought I can either starve eating
Clare created her own skin care line called premae the world’s first allergen beauty company using vegan friendly ingredients which has been nominated for numerous awards What’s the inspiration behind your practice? Being a brown skinned black girl, I’m African-Nigerian but London born and there just wasn’t that many stories 12 years ago that we were predominantly featured in, if
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you think about Eastenders or the Bill, well up into Hollywood Blockbusters, where are the British Black afro Caribbean actresses? There’s always that tokenism whether it was Naomi Harris or Thandie Newton and it’s that one girl represents a generation. I don’t know what it is but I said to myself when I’m 32 I’m going to come back into the film business and I think not only was there no work for black girls or not enough work to go around there was the whole #MeToo thing in respect to me going to auditions where there would be predominantly male producers and casting directors. I remember some vivid experiences where people were trying to take advantage of me in the sense of saying “We just thought about that scene and we just thought she just bares her breast, we would like you to just show your breasts“ and I was like a) it’s not in the script b) it’s not in the stage direction and c) it doesn’t actually make sense to the text like this is happening in the middle of a war zone, why would somebody just show their breast? That’s really odd. I walked out of that audition and not doing it. So that coupled with my colour and lack of diversity in film I was like I’m out but something just happened last year I got honoured by the queen for my services to dermatology and had achieved some of the goals I had set and I just felt like you know what Clare, mission accomplished but I was talking to one of my customers who became a friend of mine who was in deep distress and she told me a mutual friend of ours broke up with his girlfriend and told her all he offered her was good d*ck and conversation. He’s 32 and she’s 28 and it was almost like he thought she would be
grateful to him saying that, it’s so degrading. In her mind it was clear he would date and put a ring on women who were fair skinned but for dark skinned girls it was like good d*ck and conversation because him and his ex were engaged. So in my mind this was the inspiration behind my film, No Shade. What are the challenges you face when discussing the topic of colourism? Within 10 minutes of putting out the press release about the film I was called immediately by the BBC world services, this is breaking news, a group of pregnant women in Ghana are swallowing bleaching tablets to make sure that their unborn children will be born lighter skinned and I felt physically ill just hearing that. I think that kind of global response, one guy from Italy he’s black Ghanaian his girlfriend is Italian and she’s from the south and in the south you have darker skin so the northerner Italians call the southern Italians Africans even though they are Italian as a derogatory term because they are negro they are dark skinned and he’s like the level of colourism that’s not even in the black community that’s in the white community. I was like damn, that is kind of special. What do you think we can do as a society to reduce colourism? I think that the line that’s in my film “No shade is superior” I just think knowing that everyone is unique because for me it’s really about the fact that even my friends who are of mixed heritage or fair skinned its that unwanted fetishism of their colour and they
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will say to me Clare I find it so disrespectful and degrading that men will talk to me more than say another woman because I am lighter than her. It’s that moment they discard my personality my achievements and who I am, so it goes two ways. It’s not about throwing a pity party for dark skin black women like “oh please just like us or treat us better because we’re dark” no, it’s just treat me like a human being because we’re a human race and I think that’s what’s really special when you can say everybody is on the same page lets just get to know each other regardless.
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DISMANTLING CROWN AND KINGDOM. SAM KANER, HUMAN SCIENCES, OXFORD UNIVERSITY (STUDENT).
‘Jamaican Brown’ was the class to which my grandfather belonged. Hair texture, skin colour, facial features acted not only as racializing markers in the Anglo-Caribbean prior to Independence, but also as indicators of proximity, proximity to the Crown. When I say Crown here, however, I do not mean it as a metonymy of power, or as marking any kind of meaningful influence beyond the realm of local politics and bureaucracy. Crown represents an ideal, a perceived sense of prestige and a misguided commitment to Britain as Motherland, the natural Kingdom, a way perhaps, to construct forms of personal protection from the onslaught of racism experienced by lighterskinned and middle-class Jamaicans and other Anglo-Caribbeans migrating to the UK in the wake of Independence. It is through the actions of the political Crown that colourism was created, and it is through the inculcation of the Crown’s racist dictates that it has found hosts to parasitically sustain itself. And now the beating heart of colourism sends ripples and waves through my family line, to be felt within my own blood. My grandfather, realising that the ideal of the Crown, could not protect him from the grinding teeth of systemic racism and the deathly incisions of institutionalised anti-blackness, withdrew deeper and deeper into the gaping chasm of colonially induced colourism. Because he had been told that his skin was not black, that he had traceable
European heritage, he believed that he could construct himself differently in the society which had exported such an insidious ideology in the first place. And when such ideology was viscerally re-amplified upon his venture to the Motherland through the witnessing of serial acts of violence perpetrated against him and his countryfolk, he attempted to put up a protective shroud, relying on his status as ‘Brown’ to deflect the hand of racism as it pushed him slowly towards depression, ennui and social disadvantage. ‘Nigger’ was painted across my mother’s house when she was a child. Born of a white mother and a ‘Brown’ father, her colour could act both as a source of redemption and as a source of shame in my grandfather’s colourist painting of social and moral relations. In a failure to produce white children, my grandfather made successive attempts to isolate his children from the blemishing effects of their African, slave-descended blood. They would be different, yet in order to be so, they too would have to hate themselves. The ‘nigger’ house became a nigger-free zone, black clothing was banned due to its devilish connotations, and dub and reggae, the devil’s music, would face a permanent ban. My grandfather was light-skinned but in spite of all the above, he was black in the Motherland, a slave-descendent, a ‘nigger’, less than human, a ‘black bastard’, dirty, slow, incompetent. He used colourism to protect himself but in so doing, sowed the seeds for greater
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disillusionment, becoming so unbearable that it led to his own personal destruction, projected onto both of his children. I live with this legacy, and too am born out of the psychological manipulations of the Crown. Colourism featured into my own creation as the dark child of three golden children, who straddle the ever-shifting border between whiteness and blackness. My grandmother was adamant upon my birth that I was the reincarnation of her late husband, subtly evidenced by my slanted eye, my fulsome lips, my olive tones, my thick curly hair.
methods which he adopted to uphold it were ultimately destructive. And following on from this bestowal of gratitude, not to the Crown, nor its effects, but to the necessary acts of resistance to rekindle the spirit of blackness in my family, and to keep it alight in the face of self-destruction, I can begin to construct my identity more positively. Colourism represents a part of my history but the legacies of black power and resistance, I hope, may protect me from its submersion.
At what point would colourism begin to toxify the construction of my own inchoate racial identity? Can I construct myself in terms separate to its influence? As the Crown begins to fade, other pernicious influences, borne out of its ramifications, arise. The falseness of its ideals have produced generations of trauma, which continue to be recycled. Colourism continues to exert its influence as an aide, as an instigator of trauma, as a constructor of cycles of heritable self-hatred. Can we detach ourselves from our colonial past, and begin to self-define, whilst colourism rages within us and re-creates historical dynamics of prestige and differential access? My racial identity has, for the most part, been premised upon pain and self-afflicted denigration. But I have to thank my grandfather for his resilience, even if the BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 61
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MIXED MEDIA ARTIST, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND (ALUMNI).
These images are from my “Daddy, Baby, Ghost” series. They symbolize the persecution I often received for having darker skin. In this series I juxtapose myself with holiness in order to highlight the censure that often came with my self love and self knowledge.
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COLORISM IN INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA.
ALETHA M PENRITH, WRITER, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY (ALUMNI). Colorism’ is a phrase that was introduced in the 1980’s by author and activist Alice Walker. A definition in a recent article stated ‘Colorism’ is the systemic study of how white supremacy operates within ethnic groups to privilege those with light skin complexions, although definitions vary. Hall (1995) for example argued that ‘Colorism’ is more than aesthetic of skin colour and Eurocentric features. Relaying in his paper on “The Bleaching Syndrome’ Hall notes that Colorism is a destructive response to racial hierarchies and racial domination that drives physio social acceptance and inclusion through assimilating one’s own physiological features. Literature on “Colorism’ ranges from the legal studies, gender, criminology, education, youth education, politics, media studies to health and psychology and across African, African – American, wider America, Latino, Asian, South East Asian and Australian communities. It has a vast array of research material and explores tones and race more broadly within context of dominant culture, race and power relations. Despite the fact that whiteness, race and Indigeneity have been regularly explored, for example see Moreton-Robinson, Higgas in ‘Whitening Race’ (2010) , ‘Colorism’ is perceived as having less of an impact in Indigenous Australia. Speculatively, this has been due to various factors in policy that have disproportionately affected Indigenous people at the design of Australian race powers, for example the stolen generation, assimilation policies, health (see Doyle, Hungerford
and Clearly 2016) and more prominently the exclusionary process of economic prisms that might be indicated should intra racial relationships draw unwanted policy attention (See Eatock versus Bolt ). The Legal System Numerous cases in the U.S have sought to define or create a prima facie case against colourism and many have failed. In the case of Santiago v. Stryker Corp. a determination made by the court recognised colour bias favoured a white skinned Puerto Ricans over dark skinned Puerto Ricans. The problem persists as courts struggle to define where to draw the ‘colour line’. Most cases have dealt with colour under racial discrimination. In 2008 , a taskforce was created to address the overwhelming numbers of Colour complaints in the workforce. It is worth noting that Latinos have become one of the largest minority group in the U.S, but are legally classified as white despite having mixed heritage, whereas African –Americans have been situated as black under various tests when of mixed heritage. Although colourism does not necessarily equate to biracial parentage, where both African- American and Latinos sit in terms of legal determinations has interesting legal implications. While Puerto Ricans have a legal prima facie for colourism the majority of African-American cases have been dealt with under race discrimination. Colourism across the legal spectrum have also impacted Japanese and Hindu women who are marginable based on colour preference. Caste systems and colour have
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inter-relatable characteristics in the law, requiring a deeper and stronger analysis of the colour-caste binary. Other studies in the U.S have drawn upon colour bias in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and media depictions of African Americans who were described as ‘looters’ thereby actively perpetuating criminal imagery of dark skinned people. A CNN reported those left behind as ‘poorest’ and ‘blackest, indicating a natural relationship between darker skin tones, poverty and criminal behaviour. Others yet have noted the use of darkened images in the case of O.J Simpson to send a message to the public ’reinforcing negative stereotypes’ of black people. Studies show disparities between dark skinned African American men and light skinned African American men, who are receiving longer and harsher prison sentences according to color biases. Education A comprehensive study undertaken by Rybov (2012) focused on assessing how skin tone impacts adolescents in school to college and school to work transitions. In his study using multinominal logistic modelling, research showed that youth with dark skin tones were less likely to attend college than their lighter skinned counter parts in both genders. Further Rybov showed that phenotypical European features highly impacted female opportunities for work and college attendance. More broadly, those with higher socioeconomic backgrounds were able to access more opportunities and especially those who had parents who had attended college. One example noted those who had
darker skin and were from low socioeconomic backgrounds increasingly felt an obligation to go to work rather than attend college as an economic responsibility to family. Light skinned students are also more generally perceived as unlikely to have behavioural problems, and as personifying other positive traits, enabling their schooling experience to be less conflicted. This has been described by scholar Margaret Hunter (2015) as the ‘Halo effect’, a projection by teachers that those with lighter skin are more attractive and more intelligent. She writes ‘The culture of colorism elevates the status of light skinned students and denigrates the status of dark-skinned students’ in people of Latino (including those who identify as Indigenous) and African-American heritage. Scholars further drew a correlation between those with darker skin tone and the probability of suspension from school and perceived unfair treatment by teachers, finding them twice as likely to be suspended as white students. Findings were not the same for those who had lighter skin tones. Socioeconomic Opportunity Lighter skinned people are selected above their darker skinned counter parts and able more freely to work within the broader society. Harrison (2010) commented that this is the result of a psychological preferencing, citing Byrnes’ 1971 study, noting that people feel more comfortable around those who look like them and further arguing that white skinned people reflect the imaginary likeness of those racial structures devised by whiteness. Harrison also argues, along
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with a number of others, this selection preference based on structural whiteness can be seen across all racial groups. The socioeconomic reality of ‘Colorism’ enables those with lighter skin to get ahead in society by obtaining jobs, and to a degree being less likely to come into conflict with the law. Moreover, in the case where they are in contact with the law, they are less likely to receive heavier sentencing thereby creating greater opportunity to engage in the workplace. From a historical perspective, light skinned people were ‘more likely to be literated’ (Ryabov 2013) and therefore employable. In the context of slavery, those with light skin fetched higher prices at auction and as an investment were more likely to be treated better in the areas of housing and food and furthermore had a greater chance at survival. These socioeconomic benefits have contributed to a socioeconomic legacy of wealth and inclusion. Indigeneity, Colourism and Assimilation in Australia. Studies of ‘Colorism’ can be highly complex due to the interwoven fabric of interracial relationships, themes of caste, religion and race. ‘Colorism’ within ethnic communities is sometimes a contested notion due to how peoples within those groups perceive themselves and others in the racial hierarchy, and further, the benefits such a discussion may have on policy implications in racially charged societies. Some groups and individuals may even argue that ‘Colorism’ has no significant impact on their identity and inter and intra groups relations, although this is highly unlikely. The impacts of colonisation and racial hierarchy means that whether or not those impacted by the operationalisation of ‘Colorism’ perceive themselves to be, the dominant culture through
which socialisation, politicization and socioeconomic opportunity are devised determines, much like racial hierarchy, such systems are present. Moreover, these systems have political, economic and structural impacts on broader society. In the Case of Eatock Versus Bolt in 2011, the question of colour is raised to discuss the manner through which the Racial Discrimination Act section 18C could determine the outcome of the case in the form of legal principles in relation to ‘light skin’ Aboriginals. The case was pursued in response to an article by Sun Herald Columnist Andrew Bolt , entitled ‘It’s so hip to be black’, in which he noted ‘Meet the white face of a new black race’. Bolt detailed a number of high profile Indigenous people as misrepresenting themselves as Indigenous to claim funds proportionally directed at Indigenous people designed to counter historical policies excluding them from political, economic and social progression. The High Court found Bolt guilty and awarded the plaintiffs as a result, however, the matter of colourism was obscured by racial dialectic. As noted in the above literature under Law, the tendency to address colourism in accordance with race legislature has its limitations. It is worth understanding historical policies when addressing political and legal implications of Indigenous groups and ‘Colorism’, specifically processes of assimilation legally constituted under the White Australian Policy to ‘absorb’ Indigenous Australians into the wider mainstream of white Australia. Douglas and Chesterman (2004) note the objective of inter racializing Indigenous people through miscegenation officially drew on the value afforded to whiteness and situated blackness as a caste system of shade. It argued ‘light skinned’ Aboriginal people should be assimilated genetically, and other,
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into white society. While some of the ‘light skinned’ or ‘half caste’ lived with ‘blacks’, the authors wrote, others lived with the whites and were more socially accepted. This hierarchicalization within race undertook what ‘Colorism’ scholars have observed as a caste system with roots in the 1600’s. The Eatock Versus Bolt case shows, as with many international cases in the context of race powers and colonisation, light skinned people have been the subjects of control and systemic abuse. An essential argument is not that light skinned people are not of a specific racial or ethnic origin, as Bolt (2009) argued, but rather a need to explore the impact skin colour in Indigenous Australia and how it reflects racial values of broader society, or as Holdschild puts it, creates a ‘double disadvantage’ for some. ‘Colorism’ transcends race and gender, normalises whiteness in race powers, and preferences light skin as reflective of normative. ‘Colorism’ also engages narratives and power relations related to tone as not just an inference of interracial relationships, but those with parents of the same ethnicity and leads to psychic conflict within the individual and more broadly the group (Hall 1990). It has a particularly insidious impact in relation to aestheticism in women of colour, allowing those with lighter skin to ‘marrying up’ on the socioeconomic scale, while leaving those with darker complexion notably unwedded and subjects of discard and dehumanisation. Noonuccal’s poem in 1989 ‘Dark Unmarried Mothers’, reflected on the value of whiteness in Australian court systems where white females are concerned, compared to those of black women when she wrote: ‘Is it a white girl, then court case and headline/ Stern talk of maintenance / Is it a dark girl? Then safe immunity/ He takes what he wants’
This passage comments on Colour, race, gender and sexual consent, and the manner through which the law protects whiteness and allows the exploitation of blackness. Whether similar agency is considered when light skinned women are raped is a question requiring interrogation. The case of the rape of Black Power Activist Roberta Sykes in the 1960’s in Townsville saw the conviction of one of several rapists. No such case from the same period has recorded the rape of darker skinned women nor the conviction of a white male, despite there being a rich literary premise for such occurrences. Research shows Indigenous Australians face a number of negative stereotypes which impact policy across a broad range of areas. However, like many populations of colour across the world, being dark skinned can intensify and activate negative associations, as research has shown with recent online experiments on the pigmentation of U.S President Barack Obama and the 2008 U.S election. *Colorism is an important field of study that, unlike critical race theory, moves beyond racial groups and relates to systemic privileges bestowed upon those with lighter skin tones. It has important implications across a number of fields including the media, the law, socioeconomics, politics, policy and education. This paper has argued the importance of introducing the concept of Colorism into Indigenous Australian research , and despite the fact that it has rarely been attempted, colour is already present in the way society perceives people, and has placed limitations of human interaction and human potential. In EATOCK v. BOLT , for example, colour plays a particular role in how various Acts can be interpreted and applied. Recent social media activity has continued to highlight the problem of ‘Colorism’ in many parts of the world using the internet (ABC 2016), and while there is little research on Indigenous Australians and
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colourism, the idea that it does not operate here in light of Australia’s historical White Australian Policy and attempts absorb the Indigenous population into the whiteness of Australian standardized norms, is very unlikely. Practices of whiteness exist in many areas of Australian policy therefore it seems unlikely that this would also not be privileged in skin tone, therefore ‘Colorism’ research can expand opportunities for Indigenous researchers and non-Indigenous researchers to identify and address how whiteness is operationalised to privilege those with light skin tones in Indigenous communities, as it has elsewhere in the world. Certainly it may draw inference from historical policies that have privileged whiteness. It can also create structural resources to counter such privileges which have traditionally satisfied white imaginaries and reflections of self and power.
distributions towards darker skinned Indigenous people. Furthermore research on ‘Colorism’ in Indigenous Australians will add research design in causality, and widen literature on ‘Colorism’ and race studies.
While Doyle et al (2016) may argue that Indigeneity is not defined by skin colour, in a world that privileges light skin and Eurocentric features above dark skin and Indigenous/black features, the desire to be a whitening nation persists. Privileging those with lighter skin tones and disproportionately impacting dark skinned Indigenous people is a double negative in the Indigenous experience. Roberts noted in his 2014 article for the Quadrant , ‘Skin colour has been the elephant in the room for some decades but its implications are ignored, unspoken, denied and otherwise not on the table’ in Australia, therefore I argue the need for ‘Colorism’ to be introduced into Indigenous Research is essential to provide more nuanced understanding and to counter negative policy and social 70 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
LAGOS AS A PHOTOGRAPHER.
YASMINE AKIM, SHADES OF NOIR.
My experience of Lagos as a Photographer. I have family in Cameroon (border state) and cousins in Lagos – but was still severely alienated due to my skin tone, not surprising, but likewise - I have no recognisable cultural identity in Britain. I had previously never visited a developing country without family; as a result of this I was forced to examine my social conditioning and privilege – why did I feel like I was in danger?... Perhaps it was because of the sheer sense of lawlessness, yes - but moreover the stark isolation, caused by my otherness. As a photographer I was extremely stimulated by Lagos when I travelled there two years ago - the experience was life changing, as it was something that I had never seen before, a totally different world. Barthes stated that ‘The camera is a clock for seeing’ - in his book Camera Lucida (1980), this is interesting to me whilst thinking about shedding light onto situations that one doesn’t usually get to see. The movement of time drastically changed as soon as I left the airport - which affected me deeply; it felt as if I was in a dream for the whole duration of the trip. The opportunity to experience adult life like a child again gave me the enthusiasm to work in a way that had been previously distorted through familiarity.
tone, this was draining and exhilarating simultaneously as people would look at me with sincere confusion. People from all walks of life were not used to seeing someone half black and half white, and believe me everyone was honest about their curiosity. What I found to be the most inspiring aspect of my experience was the fact the street culture was vibrant with phenomenal style and individuality – despite the corrupt nature said to take place in Nigeria, ‘Structural factors obviously play a large role: gross inequality, poverty, desperation. But societal attitudes play a part as well. While almost all Nigerians complain about corruption, actual public tolerance for the practice remains too high.’ I had a very strong sense that the pedestrians owned their area, people were proud, and able to just sit on a bench for a few hours with friends - In comparison, in London, I feel as if everything is more transactional and as a result there are designated places to chill out, people do not feel relaxed in the streets it’s all about getting from A to B. Because of this, there was a strong sense of community in Nigeria, the culture is more engaged and intense because everyone is simply more up front about how they feel about things. Most of all, people did not shy away from the inquisitiveness of eye contact, no one was too embarrassed to embrace intensity with strangers.
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COLORISM LATINX COMMUNITIES.
YESENIA PADILLA, WRITER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (ALLUMNI). A few weeks ago, I was absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed a meme a relative -- we’ll call her Jenni -- posted. “Lol,” she wrote, “too good not to share!” The meme was in English and Spanish, and read, “When people tell me I look White [sic] not Mexican [sic]” then was followed by a litany (in Spanish) of talking-out-one’sneck insults to the hypothetical insulter: “Listen you tacky barefoot Indian from the hills, not all Mexicans are the same dark-as-a-tire skin color as you.” I stared blankly at the post as it collected likes, the “tears of laughter” emojis, and “jajaja”’s piling up in the comments. I was shocked. Jenni posted this? My relative, who goes to protests for immigrant rights and anti-gentrification rallies, who knows all of our ita’s traditional recipes, who listens almost exclusively to salsa and cumbias? Does this person who shares my blood feel this way about my brothers, and our cousins who are considerably darker than she? Does my family member feel this way about me? In posting this meme, my milk-white, freckled pariente Jenni was reproducing colorist attitudes and ideas that were not only accepted in Latinx communities but actively encouraged and enforced. It didn’t matter that we grew up together in San Francisco, one of the more liberal cities on the West Coast (pre-tech boom, of course). Colorism, the discrimination and prejudice of lightskinned People of Color (POC) against darker-skinned POC, has deep roots in Latinx communities and must be confronted.
The Roots of Colorism During the conquest and colonization of Mexico, and Latin America as a whole, the Spanish adhered to a detailed and complex racial caste system known as the sistema de casta. The sistema de casta greatly informed one’s socioeconomic status in colonial Latin American Society, with the top of the hierarchy being Criollos, who were white (from Spain). From there, the caste levels blossom into a dizzying array of permutations, such as Mestizo, a term still used today to denote the progeny of a white person and one of Indigenous ancestry, and the insidious “salta atras” — which literally translates to “jump backwards” — to denote the progeny a mulatto (person of Black and Spanish ancestry) and an Indigenous person. This anti-Black and anti-Indigenous system had the purpose of upholding white supremacy, and continues to do so today. The extreme anti-Black “social cleansing” of Dominicanos of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic is only one of many examples of the long-lasting effects of sistema de casta and it’s legacy of white supremacy. Ever heard the phrase “pelo chino” used to describe coarse, curly hair? In the caste system, a “chino” is the progeny of a Morisco (the progeny of a mulatto person and a white person), and a white person. In the United States, colorism in our communities is not only manifested through anti-Black and anti-Indigenous attitudes, but also cooptation of Black and Indigenous movements to the benefit of lighter skinned Latinos. When I think about
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Jenni’s Facebook post, I can understand her frustration toward the erasure of her cultural background through her ability to “pass”, but I wish she would see how lashing out at darker skinned latinas is only reinforcing white supremacy. I understand the challenge of overcoming colorism. It. Is. EVERYWHERE in our culture. From the time we are children, we are praised or tutted at simply because of our physical features. He’s light skinned, you’ll have such cute babies, or, your daughter is so pretty, but she’s so dark. I spent many a night in the shower, scrubbing myself furiously with my mother’s skin whitening soap, willing it to make me a little lighter, my eyes a little greener, my hair a little more blonde and straight. Battling Colorism In order to effectively combat colorism in our communities, we must be willing to engage our loved ones, to “call them in” in healthy, constructive ways. Everyday feminism offers some great tips on speaking to loved ones about anti-Blackness in Latinx communities. Even still, it’s really tough to tackle these issues with people that we care deeply about. I’m jokingly known in my family as the “activist”, the one who always has an impassioned (and often lengthy) opinion on all sorts of sociopolitical issues. That didn’t take away the nervousness I felt in approaching Jenni. Never have I prepared so hard to call a person out OR in before. I wanted to be able to answer any questions she might have, and resolve any issues that might arise from the conversation. I wrote down
all my points of conversation, I practiced the Nonviolent Communication format. I felt as ready as I ever could to have a conversation like this, but even still I was shaking at how apprehensive I was to confront her. I wish I could say that apprehension melted away as soon as we spoke, and that it was a great conversation in which we both learned about ourselves and each other. The truth is, It went horribly. Jenni was very hurt by what I had to say, and very unwilling to see how her attitudes hurt me. All of my preparation washed away with tears after Jenni told me, in no uncertain terms that she never wanted to speak to me again. As much as it hurts, though, I’m glad I spoke up. The damage in allowing these colorist attitudes to flourish in our communities for the sake of avoiding conflict is so much greater than that of speaking out. I hope that Jenni knows that I love her. I hope she eventually understands that, while I know she’s a good person, reproducing these systems of white supremacy will only lead to the continual oppression of our gente — and that is something that needs to stop.
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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN WILL NEVER BE ERASED. DELILAH HOLLIDAY, MUSICIAN & VISUAL ARTIST.
Delilah Holliday is an artist, musician, singer and one half of the band ‘Skinny girl diet.’ She has just launched her solo project: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTnZapFqSog which is written, produced and recorded by her. Delilah’s artwork has been exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery and it is currently sold through Jealous Gallery. Her main goal as an artist is to just communicate how she sees the world, “if I see someone I find interesting, when I get home I’ll draw them and stuff like that, it’s just documenting life”. Her work is mainly influenced by the society that she lives in and what she experiences. Skinny Girl Diet will be supporting Queens of The Stone Age and Iggy Pop at Finsbury Park on Saturday 30th June 2018 Women of colour are often marginalised and their voices erased from important conversations. In creating ‘The Invisible Woman Will Never Be Erased’, I seek to reposition women of colour as a collective regardless of racism, we can and will stand strong. It is important to understand the origins of colorism and the divisions created by it. My drawing attempts to show the beauty of women of colour from all backgrounds. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skinny_Girl_Diet www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTnZapFqSog
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A TWISTED FAIRY-TALE.
MONICA MAJUMDAR-CHOUDHARY, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY (ALUMNI).
The twisted fairy-tale behind how light skinned girls are ‘trending’: Perceptions of skin lightening products among British Bangladeshi women. As a British Bangladeshi, I became aware of the common use of skin-lightening products by women in this community, when I was about 14. Skin colour was explained to me through the story of the ‘Three Gingerbread Women’. The first gingerbread woman was too pale because the baker had taken her out of the oven early and the other was left in the oven for too long which meant she was too dark. Third time round, the gingerbread woman was perfect, a light brown colour and everyone that came to the bakery had a desire for this piece. At the time this story had little importance, however as I grew older I realised much like the gingerbread women, family and friends were given labels. I would hear disparaging remarks about my aunt’s complexion and the pressures for her to look ‘whiter’ and use skin lightening products. I began to wonder how it is that on the one hand, skin lightening represents ‘positivity, happiness and acceptance’, and on the other hand girls’ resistance against, and at the same time acceptance of skin lightening. From listening to the voices of a small group of British Bangladeshi women I have delved
into the world of the skin lightening and its marketing; I have learnt there are broad societal issues connected to being ‘lighter’ such as marriage prospects, acceptance in the community and more generally, creating a better version of yourself. As identified through my research, some British Bangladeshi women encompass an entire lifestyle instilled with racial meaning. The act of skin lightening becomes a measure of improving self-esteem as advertisements advocate a socio-fantasy of a new identity and acceptance from the community that the women desire through very subtle depiction of images and words. Within advertisements, marketers have focused on delivering a message which signifies both the distinction and collusion of traditional Bangladeshi beliefs and values, and reinforcing the desire for light skin as a mark of status, privileges, beauty and asset; in the mass media the words dark and beauty do not go together. Due to the phantasmagoric nature of skin lightening products, it makes sense that women have often made fantasy of being ‘lighter’ as the focal point of their skin care regime and as inevitable parts of life. Offering the possibility of escaping the ‘darkness’, beauty becomes universal, it illustrates sameness rather than embracing
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differences. As the commentary from the participants indicated the image of dark skin focuses on a problem that needs to be fixed: ‘’Being lighter is like the way to go about being appreciated, I need it and its solution to my life’s biggest problem. It’s access to validation, to belong, to be accepted, loved, respected. Lighter skinned girls are desirable for marriage - a wealthy and handsome man come by and take you away. It’s a ‘twisted fairy tale’. That everyone should come towards the ‘light’, it’s not meant to be funny, but that’s how it sounds like I guess when you think out loud. Society is practically telling us that we need to convert into this
skin tone to be considered beautiful’’ From the media to society, my participants perceived men, women and culture to be consciously or subconsciously telling ‘dark women’ that they are ‘undesirable’. Women are treated as objects, and can only be successful in life if they have ‘fair’ skin. As the participants view it, for men being dark can be easily compensated for by education and jobs. Whereas for women, having a successful career or educational background means little if you are of dark complexion. The gender difference seems to be predominantly obvious when it comes to complexion. Being white is always ‘in
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style’ and is described to represent beauty and femininity. As the women advocate within the Bangladeshi culture, there are internalized white supremacist ideals of beauty and their place in society is dictated by those moral assumptions. Often the women of this study associated other people’s complexion with a specific behavioural or social placement. For instance, one participant referred to how her sister-in-law is an ‘outcast and undesirable’ because is she ‘dark’. Though the admonitions appear cruel it revolves to understanding that the standard of living abides to a ‘colour-struck’ world. To an extent it seemed to be a take on euphemism, by discretely disclosing what is a ‘racial judgement’ however describing ‘light skin’ as a biological essential and a way of life. It is worth noting how there is a perceived colour affiliated to perceived status. As the perceptions of beauty become fixed, it formulates a way of being and how this social value translates to family and friends.
relations means transformation comes at the loss of ethnic identity. The messages create a demand and giving consumers the opportunity to improve their way of being. Sadly, after listening to these women’s views I have learnt the pressures of advertising and that the power of beauty stereotypes can affect women to the extent that they will poison their bodies with harmful chemicals. However, I hope women are able turn these products away, not follow the way society has condemned them to be and happily embrace their beautiful natural skin tones. We ought to be able to ignore people’s physical characteristics and society’s stereotypes of ethnic groups and races. We are beautiful.
What is clear from the research findings is that women believe beauty is based on a ‘western’ standard. Seeing the same type of images often enough makes them seem natural and the visual depiction of women within the media normalises ‘whiteness’. The women draw on homogenized western idea of beauty, a fantasy that can never be fully fulfilled, but which is racially informed. The skin colour of Asian faces is different to ‘western skin’, yet the globalization of beauty standards informed by colonial power 82 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
FACEKINI AND COLOURISM. HSUAN WAN, SHADES OF NOIR. What would be a common item in the glove compartment of a car? Driver’s licences, some insurance details, maybe a pair of sunglasses for a sunny day. For my aunt, it is a mask. Out of curiosity, I asked the reason for keeping a mask in the car. “So I don’t get tanned and have darker skin. You should put on some sunscreen as well.” she replied to me while handing me a bottle of SPF 50+ sunscreen. A couple of years ago, a product appeared in China that shocked the rest of the world, the facekini. A breathable UV-protected mask that one wears to go swimming. This item became an online meme not so long after it’s appearance in mainstream media with it’s hilarious look when worn as well as the idea of hiding away from the sun when swimming outdoor. Sun kissed, tanned, or bronzed might seem like a compliment to others but not in most communities in East Asia. Long before the industrial revolution and international trade began in East Asia, skin tone is already a clear visible class marker for the public. With the idea of the fairer the better, many would go to an extreme extent to avoid getting tanned, such as wearing a facekini.
This difference plays an even more obvious factor on females. After Tang dynasty, the society gradually reverted into a conservative culture that restricted females appearing in public. A “good female” was supposed to stay within the household and not walk around. However, this rule only applied to females from a wealthy family. A working class female still needed to work and run errands for their family. This difference in classes enhanced the stereotype of being fair is “good”. As time passes, fairness became a cultural standard that applies to both men and women but mainly targets women. Facekini is just one of the outcomes created due to the social beauty standard. With influence of the tanning culture of western countries and the shift of work dynamics from agricultural to office workers. More East Asian celebrities are known and promoted with the idea of sun-kissed skins being desirable. Being tanned, no longer signifies the class status of the person but a beauty and fashion choice that a person makes. Although there are less prejudice against darker skins, being fair still lays heavily influential on many aspects of life.
In the past, most East Asian communities are agricultural or fishery societies. They rely on working in the fields or sea to earn a living. As a result, these groups of people are significantly more tanned and has a darker skin tone compared to the wealthy and the nobles that do not need to work under the sun. BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 83
Illustration by Jay Lee
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COLOURISM：亞洲社會對膚色 的審美觀與對「美白」的執著 YUWEN HSIEH, SHADES OF NOIR. 與種族歧視（Racism）稍有不同， 膚色歧視（Colorism)是因膚色不同 下所產生的偏見、歧視，進而導致人 們因為天生的外表不同而遭遇到不 同的對待（Jones, 2001。儘管種族 對Colourism有影響的關鍵（天生基 因造成膚色不同），膚色歧視和種族 歧視卻不完全是相同的事情。種族歧 視是社會地位與種族掛鉤下所產生的 不公，而膚色歧視單純指的是社會地 位和「膚色」的連結。換句話說，出 身同樣種族、國家的兩個人，可能單 純因為膚色的不同而遭遇到不同的對 待。 在亞洲社會，colorism其實是存在 的。從亞洲美妝產業、媒體經常使用 的字彙「美白」就可以看出社會對於 淺色肌膚的偏好。照理說「白」應該 只是個中性的形容詞，然而我們卻在 前面加上了「美」，說明了社會價值 下膚色白與美了連結。 在中國、日本、台灣、韓國、印度等 亞洲國家，對於白皙肌膚的偏好是非 常明顯地。追溯歷史根基，人們對於 淺色肌膚的崇拜來自於貴族民望為營 造社會地位所建立的審美觀。在古 代，一個人若能保有白皙肌膚，代表 著他擁有足夠的財富和權勢以至於不 用親身到外從事勞力的工作（Bray, 2002）。例如日本江戶時代的藝伎， 就用白色的粉末將臉撲地白皙，再畫 上胭脂。
以現代亞洲社會來說，人們仍對白皙 肌膚趨之若鶩。美妝產業除了不斷推 出美白產品，更常以「白皙透亮」、 「白裏透紅」等關鍵字作為行銷手 法。媒體、雜誌也能看到各種如何 變白、防曬、保持白皙肌膚的文章報 導。雖說在西方文化的影響之下，在 媒體上漸漸能看到較多元的膚色，「 一白遮三醜」仍是亞洲社會主流的審 美觀，線上大多數的亞洲女明星、部 落客都還是以白皙肌膚為主。 幾年前在中國更出現誇張離譜、帶有 種族歧視的洗衣精廣告。影片中的黑 人男子被女主角推進洗衣機中，使用 廣告主打的洗衣精後，變身成為膚色 較淺的亞洲男子，而女主角便露出愛 慕、崇拜的眼神。 www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Few8kJ0zfnY 出身亞洲的我，從未對colorism議題 有深入的思考。我認為亞洲社會對於 種族歧視有一定的瞭解，對於colorism卻沒有同等的知識與察覺。我們 是否應該屏除「白=美；黑＝醜」的 含義連結，對膚色有更開闊的審美 觀，而不再只是受困於歷史因素的影 響。是的，白皙的肌膚是美麗的，但 深色的肌膚也是。
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DARK SKIN PAIN, LIGHT SKIN PRIVILEGE.
SUZANNE FORBES-VIERLING, PHD. RETIRED, VICE PRESIDENT OF ACADEMIC AFFAIRS AND PROFESSOR AT ARGOSY UNIVERSITY.
Dark Skin Pain, Light Skin Privilege: Nine Solutions to Dismantling Colorism in the Black Community. Colorism finds its origins in slavery. During this time, we found that white slave owners preferred Africans who possessed European features. Light-skinned slaves were oftentimes products of rape between the European slave-owner and African women. The lighter skinned black slave worked closer and was sometimes related to the slave-owners family. They also received higher valued work assignments. This color based acceptance / rejection continuum is still internalized by African Americans over 300 years later. In turn, we use the same color value-based system to discriminate against each other. Research on colorism indicates that racism exists and delineates the benefits of light skin privilege, even to the point of equating it to the power of male patriarchy and white feminism. It can’t be denied that colorism gives some black people advantage. Colorism hangs over our heads divisively and impacts our lives. We end up pitted against each other and the pain seems to be never ending. Solutions to colorism have been focused on the victims of colorism and not to those who maintain it. We are accustomed to
seeing dark skinned and light skin women process their emotional pain related to their “status” inside the black community. We hear about who’s been given privilege and who didn’t and why. We silence those who we feel have privilege for the sake of raising the voices of those who suffer from blatant rejection. We are accustomed to accurately stating “It’s the fault of white supremacy.” Indeed – white supremacy created colorism – a form of intraethnic, intraracial discrimination practiced globally. However, pleading with and waiting for racist systemic forces to take the lead in extinguishing this product of colonialism is not going to happen anytime soon. Many are working on it but don’t wait on it. Rarely is there discussion on those inside our community who perpetrate colorism. The power behind maintaining colorism lies in all of us who participate in applying hierarchical value on someone’s physical features. Dismantling colorism lies in going after those who perpetuate it. Here are 9 solutions that we can work on today to dismantle colorism. 1. SELF. Do you show a preference? Do you assign high value to lighter skinned
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black people? Lower value to browner black people? Work on shaking up your own level of self-hate. Be mindful of your reactions. Study your history. Take pride in all the contributions made around the world by men and women that look like you. Have empathy for all the children around you who are placed in a value based hierarchy before they can even speak. Mourn how badly you may have been treated. Acknowledge your privilege. 2. FAMILY, INFANTS and COLORIST LANGUAGE. Family members assign value to black babies the day they are born. A great many grandmother, mother, auntie inspect and imprint a hue-based value on black babies in the hospital before they even make it home. Konrad Lorenz, the psychologist known for his work on imprinting, shares that we are powerful in shaping our children’s psyche’s at birth. The goal is to be aware that this happens and to interrupt the pattern laid down since the days of slavery by blocking and diverting colorist imprinting of your infant. Family members scan the following parts of the black baby’s body: • Hair texture. Will the curly hair become “nappy?” The curlier the hair, the more concern there is that it won’t stay that way and it’ll become kinky. “Her hair is going to break the comb!” “I hope she get her momma’s straight hair.” “Ooh I hope it’s long!” • The nose. Unfortunately, the African continent gets thrown under the bus on this one. If it is wide at birth, the concern
is that it will be too “African.” Mothers spending hours pinching the bridge of the nose in hopes of straightening it out. Some grandmothers have been known to put a clothespin on the bridge of the nose. The assumption is that the bones of an infant are pliable and that the nose can be straightened. “He got a big old nose!” “Her nose went back to Africa!” • The ears, knuckles and knees. If this color is darker than the rest of the baby’s skin, the well-ingrained belief is that those areas are a strong indicator of how dark the baby will become. It’s believed that the rest of the infant’s body will darken up to match those areas. Sadly, prayers have been sent up to stop this from happening! “I hope he doesn’t get too dark!” 3. FAMILY and COLORIST LANGUAGE. Actively check family members for their use of colorist language. It might be helpful to counter colorist comments like so: • “Dad, my sister is beautiful just the way that she is. Saying she is pretty for a dark girl makes me and her sad and hurts her feelings.” • “Mom, I don’t care if my children come out browner than me. Please don’t say negative things about color to your future grandchildren.” • “Kinky hair is great hair. The texture is normal. Please do not make my kids feel bad about themselves.” • “Uncle, black girls grow up in a lot
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of emotional pain when they get picked over like clothes on a rack because of their color. Stop.” • “Auntie, black boys grow up to hate black women when jokes are made about their black skin. Stop.” • White/Latin/Asian mom, don’t throw your hands up in despair in front of your daughter when combing her hair. Handle your business, watch some YouTube tutorials or get some sisters to help you. • White/Black/Latin/Asian dad, do not sit silent while family members make tone deaf comments. Silence signals your agreement and it hurts. Speak up and protect even if you’re scared you’ll meet resistance. • “Before you come over, please don’t say anything colorist about my kids.” 4. MEN. Black men have no idea how painful it is to women and men when they scan the room and make it obvious that their choices are based on colorism. • Acknowledge your privilege in this area. Men carry the bulk of the power in maintaining colorism inside the community. No matter how many times the womanists may clap back, most black women who want a black man as a lover/ life partner/husband, seek to be considered desirable to the men in their culture. The rejection by men because of the woman’s hue is most painful. While it is not fair that colorism was handed down to men, a contribution towards dismantling it will go a long way – for generations to come.
rejection. Not feelin’ it. Don’t do it again.” • Showing preference for light skin children: Raising black children in this culture is difficult, regardless of their complexion. Disregarding a potential partner because you fear having dark skinned children is wrong. Avoidance of a woman for the concern of how the children will come out is akin to eugenics. • Engage in dialogue: Be bold and gather your friends together to discuss this issue. Discuss your fears, concerns, personal pain, and privilege and make a pledge to eliminate colorism from your community. 5. CHURCHES. Ask your pastor for time to speak in which you can read these solutions to the congregation. Your congregation is going to be filled with all the black baby loving little old grandmothers who make the colorist comments and pinch those babies noses’ hoping for a slimmer nose! 6. YOUNG CHILDREN. Control the TV to the best of your ability for younger children so that they don’t internalize colorist messages. Small children are impacted by images more than words. Images on TV permeate so powerfully to the point that black children continue to view a white person’s image as superior to that of a black person’s image. A 1949 study wherein black children were presented with a white doll and a black doll were asked to identify what they thought was the superior image. The study (Naacpldf. org, 2018) concluded with black children pointing to white images as superior to black images. The study is replicated time and time again and concludes the same every time. (Billante and Hadad, 2018)
• Check colorist language: “Hey I don’t like that you said she is pretty for a dark girl/he is fine for a dark guy. Our race has been through enough for you to make dark skinned sisters/brothers feel 90 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
7. CHILDREN. • Teach boys not to assign teenage girls value based on a color hierarchy. Girls are more likely to be on the receiving end of being permanently placed on a colorist-based hierarchy. • Teach girls not to make fun of dark skinned boys. We cannot afford anymore Tommy Sotomayors. We owe it to the next generation. • Teach girls and boys the definition of colorism and to not use colorist language. 8. R ICH BLACK HOLLYWOOD/ ATLANTA. They have the power and money to produce films and cast any way they wish. Let them know that there is no need to pander and beg for casting and EGAT awards. Produce and lead. Issa Rae has already demonstrated that content is king, no matter the medium. 9. EMPLOYMENT. Social scientific research suggests that light skinned black people have more employment opportunities than dark-skinned black people. I question the data collection methods of much of this research, as it does not take into consideration other variables such as weight, shape of nose and lips, and hair texture which is very important and provides much variability in how we evaluate “privilege.” Further, the social scientific research does not take into consideration modern technologically advanced ways in which the employment process ensues. Applications are taken online, the use of recruiters and headhunters etc… Black people are not lined up as if in an auction and then selected for employment based on hue.
10. Employment law is indeed on the side of stamping out colorism. It can’t be denied that lawsuits are correcting colorism in the workplace. As early as 1998 the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a “same race” case. (Veterans Admin., EEOC No. 140-97-8374x-RNS (Sept. 21, 1998).) This precedent was set without much fanfare. But it wasn’t until 2003 when a dark skinned brother retained the EEOC and brought visibility to a successful lawsuit against his light skinned male supervisor and Applebee’s corporation. (EEOC v. Applebee’s Int’l Inc., No. 1:02-CV-829 (D. Ga. Aug. 7, 2003).) Nothing can put corporate America in its place more than a lawsuit. This case in particular continues to reverberate amongst employment law firms and corporate America. The EEOC centers colorism on their site and many law firms have carved out a niche industry as an increasing number of lawsuits are settled every year. It’s well known that companies actually have to abide by protected class laws and protect black people from discrimination experienced in the workplace not only from white people but also from black people. Don’t mess with the white man’s money. Employers now know to think twice. In short, radical protest through calling out the perpetrators of colorism is necessary. We may lose some friendships but it will be worth it for subsequent generations to not being raised with self-revulsion and to heal. We need to do this in order to better our communities and ourselves.
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Iâ€™M NOT DEFINED BY MY COLOUR.
HUSAN HAN, SHADES OF NOIR.
An original graphic short story by Hsuan Wan, exploring the myths of Asian beauty standards towards being fair and white. Reflecting on personal experience, loving and respecting my own body, is the way I battled with prejudice against my skin tone.
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EURO IN US.
YASMINE AKIM, SHADES OF NOIR.
In a talk titled, ‘Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body’, (held at Eugene Lang College: New School) Bell Hooks opens the discussion by saying, ‘All my life I wanted to be free, In order to claim that freedom, I had to resist my parents I had to resist the imperialist, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, every step of the way...’ For me freedom means being able to accept oneself without fear, resentment or judgment. I ended up straightening my hair as I was sick of being called ‘shit locks’ at school. My mother was aware of what was happening on a personal level, and was traumatized when she saw my hair for the first time, she always praised my hair and said that I was blessed – unfortunately I couldn’t see that at the time and felt as if she was holding me back. This is due to the fact that in the big bad world, I was literally bullied, called disgusting and gross for having twists in my hair. I instantly gained an abundance of male attention as soon as I did it, which was confusing. This rejection of self was especially damaging for me personally, as I felt frustrated and constantly objectified by taking this step to ‘beautify’ myself; Boys would grope and spank me in school and call me a Black Barbie or Back-off, I knew from that point that those boys wouldn’t of had the same sense of entitlement if I were white. As Nora Chipaumire put’s it - ‘Is my body subject? Or object?’ What about blackness vs. Africaness? Obviously, hair means different things for different people - it’s just that I felt as if it was something that I had to work through personally – and having a space to talk about this is hard, yet incredibly important for women of color. Subconsciously, I
was trying to look more white, this is something that people experience with skin bleaching – which is commonplace for the same issues related to acceptance. Even before I was bullied about my hair My personal experience of ‘not being good enough’ as a child happened subconsciously, for me this confusion started when I realised that I wasn’t as fond of my black doll because I thought that she wasn’t as beautiful as the others. This is my first memory of internalising racism; I challenged this response within myself when I got older but the first time it happened I was too innocent to realise what had been cast over me. To be frank, although my mother is highly intelligent and a woke, critical thinker herself, my father was incredibly racist towards Indians in the 90’s and was judgmental of black men even though he had lots of black friends loved black culture, and had a mixed race daughter. To be fair - He was in and out of prison when he was younger which had had a significant effect on the way that he depicted racial stereotypes, he told me that prisons are literally segregated in terms of race, and everyone of the same race has to stick together in fear of violence. Growing up, Scary Spice was a massive role model for me, and although all of the spice girls were highly sexualized - it was especially damaging that Mel B was seen as the ‘scary’ one. As a naïve girl, I perceived her image as being an outcast which was upsetting as I felt as if she represented me, I dressed up as her frequently and all I wanted to do was be seen as beautiful like everyone else.. It was frustrating because I
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only had the option of being Scary Spice, whereas my white friends could switch roles. Also, Mel B inspired me, but I felt as if she carried the burden of being more sexualized than others, more ‘primitive’ in her leopard print and huge hair. On that note, her hair was powerful and a positive symbol regardless of those systematic assumptions. Later on in the ‘Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body’ talk Fictional writer, Marci Blackman went on to say, ‘It’s like you say - self representation, and putting it out there counteracts all of these other images that we are confronted with.’ So, bearing this is mind, it is interesting to look at the link between the acceptance and rejection; as well as the juxtaposition between being inside and outside of the box of the expectations of a black women as both an object and as subject. Women of color are seen in varying ways within popular culture, in relation to their skin tone they are often seen as more desirable as light skinned. This can be seen in hip-hop music videos where most of the dancers are ‘lighties’. This rejection of blackness leads to the objectification of darker skinned women as more primitive or readily available due to the fact that they are not as close to the white supremacists view of purity.
frame, this ‘acceptable’ version of blackness is imposed on us when we are socialised as children. What I find really tough is how women of color are sexualised in a way that impacts the confidence of young girls. Empathy is an important tool for social change, and this maddening portrayal of the black female body impacts us all in a twisted manner. We need to create space for ourselves, and our children as change stems from within, with healing and sharing we can rise above these problems and create a new reality equipped with the tools of agency, compassion, reflection and progression. Sources: in Bibliography
We need an authentic representation of marginalised bodies because authority, or in other words, what Bell Hooks would describe as ‘White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy’ - is conveyed through either the invisibility or fetishization of ‘the other’. Black beauty is constantly commodified and inserted into a toxically idealistic Eurocentric BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 99
BEE SMITH, SHADES OF NOIR.
Beautiful bleeding broken sisters When I look at you I see hurricanes and twisters When I look at you I see gradients of holiness Touching colors of the earth You are spring You are summer You are autumns opaque gift to each other My sisters sing! My sisters sing!
Always competing Running a race with my mothers mirror My father’s sister My auntie’s friends Ribbons of black that tie around ankles and allow me to fly My sisters sing My sisters sing Oh my beautiful brown sisters please sing! For it is my favorite song and I cannot hold the note without you.
Oh what skin you seek to look no further then behind the iris Your warm waves of brown crashing against each other Endless we are together Strong we must unite I see you there brown ivory golden glory black plumes All the hues and sunlight live in your eyes and reflect in me My sisters sing! My sisters sing! My sisters sing! Do not hate your folded pages Your creased edges Her cracked spine Their faded text We are all written in god’s own handwriting, scriptures spoke us into song And song into sport 100 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
STACEY LEIGH ROSS, ARTIST AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, UAL (ALUMNI).
The Story behind the Art
ways than many Caribbean people realise.
Almost everyone who’s seen this painting has tentatively asked me… “Is that sperm?” The answer is Yes! This painting is in fact a lot of sperm, each carrying different shades of black skin and different ethnic mixes that result in a veritable pantone chart from the palest pink to the richest dark brown.
Still, it took me reading JA Rogers’ “Race & Sex” to finally grasp the meaning behind some of my great grandmother’s mutterings. Comments like “do you want to plait or do you want to knit” referring to the hair type of the children I might have should I bring home a ‘nappy-headed’ boyfriend. Or “His father really pull him out with that straight nose” referring to a cousin who was a shade too dark in her opinion but at least had a ‘straight’ nose that would help him look less black. At age 11, I couldn’t wait to straighten my hair, it was a rite of passage that every black girl I knew looked forward to with joyous delight. How glorious to finally get rid of those horrible kinky plaits and look beautiful (i.e. whiter). I continued to chemically process my hair until I was 36, only then realising for the first time, the beauty of my natural curls. Travesty. I remember too my best friend relating how teachers would ask the class, as a joke, “where’s Simmons?” Whenever he stood in front of the blackboard because his skin was so dark. And later, how that same friend was given a bank job behind closed doors because up until I was 18, it was rare to see a dark skinned black person in any client-facing bank jobs.
I was born in Trinidad & Tobago. In the Caribbean, there are so many names for the varying shades of black skin, that you’d be hard pressed to keep up. Not to mention, all those names vary a bit on each island and evolve over time! Then to add insult to injury, everyone’s definition of what these colourist terms mean is a little bit different. For example, over the course of my 26 years growing up in Trinidad, I have been called Reds, High Brown and Spanish Brown, each term referencing a different shade of brown skin and sometimes even the texture of my hair. Intellectually I understand how colourism began in the Caribbean. I’ve heard the stories of how enslaved mothers would urge their daughters to catch the plantation owner’s eye (or his son) so that their bloodline got paler and paler and ensure better opportunities for the next generation. Why damn your child to slaving in the fields when they could slave in the house, get marginally ‘better’ treatment and perhaps a little education too? In a sick twisted way, I get it. In that era, a lighter skinned child had a better chance to achieve more in life. That’s how the system was built by the colonials and that, unfortunately, is how it remains in more
Now remember, I grew up in a country where non-white people are the majority! Slavery was abolished centuries ago, and yet the conditioning of colourism still ruled (rules?) Our attitudes, beliefs, recruitment decisions, teaching practices, preferred hairstyles and so much more.
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So I get how colourism in the Caribbean started and evolved, but I also understand basic human biology. I know that given the vast mix of ethnicities in the Caribbean, the chances of me being born the complexion I am is very, very random ... sort of like figuring out which one of a gazillion sperm will manage to fertilise the egg. My maternal grandmother and my brother are very dark-skinned, my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were very lightskinned (with the coveted ‘good’ hair). My heritage apparently includes, East Indian, Chinese, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Warao Indian and the obvious African heritage, which I’ve only recently learned is likely to be Igbo and Dahomey. Basically I could have been any shade between pale peach and “black til ah blue”.
skin, but not light enough to pass for white Reds – a person with light brown skin, light enough to pass for white Negs – a person with very dark brown skin, almost black. Or as I’ve heard older generations say, “black til yuh blue”. Shabeen – a person with skin that is light enough to pass for white, who also has hair that is some shade of blonde or very light brown that might be close to their complexion. This term especially refers to those whose hair is ‘nappy’ despite it being a colour that would traditionally be associated with white skin and hair texture. I hope that the painting Colourism can offer a visual representation of how incredibly random skin tone is. More than that, I hope this visual will help us to see this truly archaic divide-and-conquer system for what it is – utterly ridiculous!
With this in mind, I set out to create a semi-abstract snapshot of how luck-of-thedraw complexion is for Black people in the Caribbean. My aim was to point out how senseless it is to be obsessed (whether proud or prejudiced) with the shade of anyone’s black skin. The message – you could just as easily have been very pale or very dark, your skin tone should be irrelevant to anything other than the amount of sunblock you need. Hidden amongst this colour spectrum of sperm hoping to ‘win the race’ are various colourist terms used across the islands, including Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Barbados, St Kitts & Nevis. These are the definitions (as I know them) for these terms. Darkie – a person with dark brown skin High Brown – a person with light brown BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 103
KEY TERMS. Afro-Asian
Of or relating to the nations of Africa and Asia or their peoples. See: Blasian
The term Afro European often refers to people who come from regions that are geographically south of Sahara, or former colonies. The concept of "Afro-Europeans" is used on the model of African Americans by associations and movements militating in favor of equal opportunities for black and mixed-race people from overseas territories and Europe.
A gender neutral alternative term for someone from black and latin american descent.
Racial slur used towards individuals of mix of African American and Arab ethnicities.
A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically a member of a dominant group standing beside member(s) of a group being discriminated against or treated unjustly.
Assigned male at birth
Showing discrimination against Black people
The policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial equality.
Acroynm for: Black And Minority Ethnic
Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
Having parents of two different races
Being sexually attracted to both men and women. Sometimes used to describe people who are sexually attracted to people of all genders, including non-binary genders.
A term used in certain countries, often in socially based systems of racial classification or of ethnicity to name people, especially one of African, Australian Aboriginal and/or Melanisian ancestry.
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British people of Black and African origins or heritage, including those of African-Caribbean (sometimes called "Afro-Caribbean") background, and may include people with mixed ancestry
The belief that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are impossible to separate. These concepts relate to each other through intersectionality
An individual of mixed Black and Pakistan descent
An individual who is of asian and african/black descent. See: Afro-Asian.
UK slang term used towards black people who are of a darker skin tone, often used as an insult.
Acroynm for: Black Minority Ethnic
Brown Paper Bag Test
A form of racial discrimination in the United States. A brown paper bag was used as a way to determine whether or not an individual could have certain privileges; only individuals with a skin color that is the same color or lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed. The test was used in the 20th century within many social institutions such as African-American sororities, fraternities, and churches. In addition, brown paper bags were used in multi-racial social events. The Brown Paper Bag Test arose from the practice of discrimination based on skin color.
A racial term used in the Portuguese empire and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry.
Any class or group of society sharing common cultural features
Being a citizen of a particular country.
A system of ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status.
The control or governing influence of a nation over another country, territory, or people. The process manifests through different forms of violence.
Showing or characterized by the percieved freedom from racial bias; the idea of not being influenced by skin color.
offensive term for black people
(Afrikaans: Kleurlinge) are a multiracial ethnic group in South Africa, who have ancestry from African (Khoisan and Bantu), European, and sometimes also Asian (Austronesian and South Asian) ethnic groups
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A term coined by Alice Walker in 1982. Describes the ideology and practice that dark skinned people are lesser than light skinned people. This ideology is indigenous to many cultures outside of the West but is one of the main foundations of racism and white supremacy.
A term now regarded as derogatory and/or a racial slur in the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, North America, Southeast Asia and Europe â€“ in reference to people from Asia
Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.
one that has skin of dark brown, red, or black colour
A derogatory term used towards a black person often with a darker skin tone
A Person of the indian subcontinent or South Asian diaspora. Desi countries include; Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Half-caste is a derogatory term for a category of people of mixed race or ethnicity. It is derived from the term caste, which comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese and Spanish casta, meaning race. It can sometimes be used in an offensive manner but not universally.
High yellow, occasionally simply yellow, is a term used to describe persons classified as black according to the one-drop rule, despite having primarily white European ancestry. It is a color reference to the olive skin of some mixed-race people. The term was in common use in the United States at the end of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, but is now considered obsolete and sometimes offensive.
(especially of a nonwhite person) having pale or relatively pale skin.
Light Skin Privilege
Within the context of the Black Community, this defines as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to black people of lighter skin tone and complexion.
UK term to describe a mixed race or light skinned person
A term referring to misogyny directed towards Black women, where race and gender both play roles in bias.
Denoting or relating to to a person whose parents belong to different racial or ethnic groups.
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Mulata/o - Mulatto/a A term used to refer to persons born of one white parent and one black parent or to persons born of a mulatto parent or parents. In English, the term is today generally confined to historical contexts. English speakers of mixed white and black ancestry seldom choose to identify themselves as "mulatto." Multi-ethnic
Of, or relating to, or including several ethnic groups.
Relating to people of many/multiple races.
The one-drop rule is a social and legal principle of racial classification that was historically prominent in the United States asserting that any person with even one ancestor of sub-Saharan-African ancestry ("one drop" of black blood) is considered black. This concept evolved over the course of the 19th century and became codified into law in the 20th century. It was associated with the principle of "invisible blackness" and is an example of hypodescent, the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union between different socioeconomic or ethnic groups to the group with the lower status. The social and legal concept of the "one-drop rule" does not exist outside of the United States. The "one-drop rule" rule is frequently compared and contrasted with the racial concepts of Latin America.
Discrimination based on skin colour, also known as colourism, is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin colour
Skin tone bias
Where lighter skin has been and continues to be valued over darker skin with multiple consequences for social, economic, and physical health outcomes
Defined as a set of characteristics and experiences that are attached to the white race and white skin. In the U.S. and European contexts, whiteness marks ones as normal and the default. While people in other racial categories are perceived as and treated as 'other'. whiteness comes with a wide variety of privileges.
The tragic mulatto is a stereotypical fictional character that appeared in American literature during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the 1840s. The "tragic mulatto" is an archetypical mixed-race person, who is assumed to be sad, or even suicidal, because they fail to completely fit in the "white world" or the "black world". As such, the "tragic mulatto" is depicted as the victim of the society in society divided by race, where there is no place for one who is neither completely "black" nor "white". This trope was also used by abolitionists in order to create a mixed-race, but white-appearing, slave that would serve as a tool to express sentimentality to white readers in an effort to paint slaves as "more human".
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Sarin, V., & Kanopy. (2015). Hue : A Matter Of Colour Schneider, R. (1991). Order and progress : A political history of Brazil. Boulder: Westview Press. Sims, Cynthia, Hirudayaraj, & Malar. (2016). The Impact of Colorism on the Career Aspirations and Career Opportunities of Women in India. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 18(1), 38-53. Skin color in a new millennium (2nd Anchor Books ed.). New York: Anchor Books. The Book of Songs. Available at: http://www.shicimingju.com/chaxun/zuozhe/13046.html The Book of Songs. Available at: http://www.shicimingju.com/chaxun/zuozhe/13046.html Tickell, P. (Director). (2008). Racism: a history; The Color of Money [Motion picture on DVD]. United Kingdom: Hamilton, NJ : Films for the Humanities & Sciences,  ©2008. White man’s burden. (2002). In E. D. Hirsch, Jr., J. F. Kett, & J. Trefil (Eds.), The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (3rd ed.). Wiedemann, T. (1989). Greek and Roman Slavery. Florence: Taylor and Francis. www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNpPQvupacM Yang, Bao Hua. (2016). The Contemplation on Whitening Culture. [online] Eladies.sina.com.cn. Available at: Yang, Bao Hua. (2016). The Contemplation on Whitening Culture. [online] Eladies.sina.com.cn. Available at: http://eladies.sina.com.cn/wzx/mb/201607-02/1127/doc-ifxtsatn7900564.shtml [Accessed 15 Apr. 2018]. ‘“BBC - Ethics - Slavery: Philosophers Justifying Slavery.”BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
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FURTHER READING. Books: Abdulle, A., Obeyesekere, A. and Dei, G. (n.d.). New framings on anti-racism and resistance. ackson, Michelle Gordon- Light, Bright and Damn Near White: Black Leaders Created by the One Drop Rule, 2014, Non-Fiction Adams, Michael Vannoy- The Multicultural Imagination: Race, Color, and the Unconscious, 1996, Non-Fiction Ahmed, Nawshaba- Film and Fabrication: How Hollywood Determines how we SEE Colorism: A Cultural Reading, 2012, Non-Fiction Anthony, Amanda Koontz & Jenny Nguyen. “Black Authenticity: Defining the Ideals and Expectations in the Construction of ‘Real’ Blackness.” Sociology Compass 8.6 (2014): 770-778. Arogundade, B. (2003). Black beauty. London: Pavilion. Arzu-Brown, Sulma- Bad Hair Does Not Exist, or Pelo Malo No Existe, 2014, Children’s Book Barbee, Winifred G.- Coming Aware of Our Multiraciality: The Politics of Skin Color, 2006, Non-Fiction Bennett, Rhonda- Momma, I Wanna be Light-skinned: My Journey to Acceptance, 2015, Non-Fiction Bird, Stephanie Rose- Light, Bright, and Damned Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America, 2009, Non-Fiction Boyd, Candy Dawson- Fall Secrets, 2004, YA Fiction Brooks, Gwendolyn- Maud Martha, 1992, Fiction* Broyard, Bliss- One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets, 2007, Non-Fiction Bryan, Ashley- Beautiful Black Bird, 2003, Children’s Book* Burrell, Tom- Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, 2010, Non-Fiction* Bynum, Betty K.- I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl!, 2013, Children’s Book Christina, Kimberly and India Sheana- Brown is Beautiful BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 113
(Rise Little Kemet Book 1), 2015, Children’s Book Crawford, Margo Natalie- Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus, 2008, Non-Fiction Crutcher, Jessica- I Love Me and the Skin I’m In, 2016, Children’s Book Davis, Sheridan- Pretty for a Dark Skin Girl, 2014, Non-Fiction Flake, Sharon G.- The Skin I’m In, 2007, YA Fiction* Gabriel, D. (2007). Layers of blackness. London: Imani Media Ltd. Gaimster, J. (2011). Visual Research Methods in Fashion. 1st ed. Berg Publishers. Glenn, Evelyn- Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, 2009, Non-Fiction Golden, Marita- Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex, 2005, Non-Fiction* Golden, Marita- SKIN: An Interactive Journal For Women Who Want to Heal The Color Complex, 2012,Non-Fiction Grihm, Amanda and J. Emil Grihm- The Dark Skinned Sister, 2015, Fiction Hall, Ronald E.- The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as 21st Century International Discourse, 2012, Non-Fiction Hamilton, Virginia- Cousins, 1990, YA Fiction* Herring, Cedric; Verna M. Keith and Hayward Derrick Horton- Skin Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the “Color-Blind” Era, 2003, Non-Fiction Hobbs, Allyson- A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, 2014, Non-Fiction hooks, bell- Skin Again, 2004, Children’s Book* Hunter, M. (2002). “if You’re Light You’re Alright”: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color. Gender & Society, 16(2), pp.175-193. Hurley, S. (1998). Exploring shadeism. Jablonski, Nina G.- Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color, 2012, Non-Fiction Jha, M. (2016). The global beauty industry. New York: Routlege. Katz, Karen- The Colors of Us, 2002, Children’s book 114 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
Kein, Sybil- Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color, 2000, Non-Fiction Kerr, A. (2016). The paper bag principle. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. Kerr, Audrey Elisa- The Paper Bag Principle: Class, Colorism, and Rumor in the Case of Black Washington, D.C., 2006, Non-Fiction Kneen, J. (2007). The skin I’m in. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Knowles, M. (n.d.). Racism from the eyes of a child. Larson, Nellla- Passing, 1929, Fiction* Lee, Kiara- Light-Skinned, Dark-Skinned or In-Between?, Children’s Book Meju, Twala and Daniel Flores- Mommy, Why is My Skin So Dark?, 2015, Children’s Book Monroe, C. (n.d.). Race and colorism in education. Moore-Chambers, Robin- Dark Skin, Light Skin, Straight or Nappy… It’s All Good, 2011, Children’s Book, Coloring Book Morrison, Toni- The Bluest Eye, 1970, Fiction* Norwood, Kimberly Jade- Color Matters: Skin Tone Bias and the Myth of a Postracial America, 2013, Non-Fiction Olson, Maria Leonar- Mommy, Why’s Your Skin so Brown?, 2013, Children’s Book Phillips, Delores- The Darkest Child, 2004, YA Fiction Phoenix, A., 2014. colourism and the politics of beauty. feminist review, 108(1), pp.97-105. Price-Thompson, Tracy; TaRessa Stovall, Elizabeth Atkins, and Desiree Cooper- Other People’s Skin: Four Novellas, 2008, Fiction Rawles, Calida Garcia- Same Difference, 2010, Children’s Book* Reger, Wibke- The Black Body of Literature: Colorism in American Fiction, 2009, Non-Fiction, German Rondilla, Joanne and Paul Spickard- Is Lighter Better?: Skin-Tone Discrimination among Asian Americans, 2007, Non-Fiction Russell, Kathy; Midge Wilson, Ronald Hall- The Color Complex (Revised): The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium, 2013, Non-Fiction* BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 115
Scott, Chaundra- Beautiful Shades, Children’s Book Sinclair, April- Coffee Will Make You Black, 1994, Fiction* Spellers, Regina and Kimberly Moffitt- Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities, 2010, Non-Fiction Sussman, R. (2016). The myth of race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Tate, S. (2009). Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Group. Tate, S. (n.d.). Skin Bleaching in Black Atlantic Zones: Shade Shifters. Taylor, Barbara Nevins; Jeanine Downie and Fran Cook- Bolden– Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin, 2005, Non-Fiction Telles, E. (n.d.). Pigmentocracies. Tharps, L. (2016). Same family, different colors. Boston: Beacon Press Books Thomas, Joyce Carol- The Blacker the Berry, 2008, Children’s Book Thurman, Wallace- The Blacker the Berry, 1929, Fiction* Titmarsh, M. (2011). Colourism. Sydney: Mark Titmarsh in conjunction with Peloton. Walker, A. (1983). In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. Harcourt. Webb, Sarah (editor)- Colorism Poems, 2017, Poetry Weems, Mary E.- Blackeyed: Plays and Monologues, 2014, Drama Wilder, JeffriAnne- Color Stories: Black Women and Colorism in the 21st Century (Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture), 2015, Non-Fiction Willis, Teresa Ann- Like A Tree Without Roots, 2012, YA Fiction*
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Shakur, A. (2017). Honoring the Innocence of Black Girls. [online] Edutopia. Available at: https://www.edutopia.org/article/honoring-innocence-blackgirls?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017]. Sim, S. (2018). In China, a Long Tradition of Dodging the Sun [Photos]. [online] Asia Society. Available at: https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/chinalong-tradition-dodging-sun-photos [Accessed 1 May 2018]. Simon, E. (2018). 5 Things You Need to Know about Colorism - EBONY. [online] EBONY. Available at: http://www.ebony.com/news-views/5-thingsyou-need-to-know-about-colorism-784 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018]. Sims, C. and Hirudayaraj, M. (2018). The Impact of Colorism on the Career Aspirations and Career Opportunities of Women in India. [online] Available at: http://journals. sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1523422315616339 [Accessed 1 May 2018]. Slutskiy, P. and Hamilton, M. (2017). CORRELATES OF COLORISM: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND DISCRIMINATORY ADVERTISING IN THAILAND. International Journal of Social Sciences, VI(2). Sohal, I., Kwaw-Swanzy, Z., Farah, F., Mahalingam, N., Shaw, B., Sohal, I., Sohal, I., Akpan, P. and staff, g. (2018). Colourism in the Indian community: ‘I have always seen myself as darker than I actually am’ | gal-dem. [online] gal-dem. Available at: http://www.gal-dem.com/colourism-indian-community/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018]. SONIA WARAICH, I. (2018). Forget Fair and Lovely, Dark is Divine: Pakistan’s First Anti-colorism Campaign. [online] India West. Available at: http://www.indiawest. com/news/global_indian/forget-fair-and-lovely-dark-is-divine-pakistan-s-first/ article_8d1f87ae-1f5d-11e5-8684-0bfe7ff82da8.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018]. Steele, C. (2016). Pride and Prejudice: Pervasiveness of Colorism and the Animated The Origin of Colorism and How It Persists in America Today. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-colorism-2834952 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017]. The origins and effects of “Colorism” in Latin America: A case study of Mexico and Brazil. [online] Ttu-ir.tdl.org. Available at: https://ttu-ir. tdl.org/ttu-ir/handle/2346/17045 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018]. Thepoint.gm. (2017). The shocking cancer effects of Skin Bleaching. [online] Available at: http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/the-shockingcancer-effects-of-skin-bleaching [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017]. Time.com. (2017). The Difference Between Racism and Colorism. [online] Available at: http://time.com/4512430/colorism-in-america/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017]. Unattractiveness, N. (2018). N.W.A Movie Casting Call Conflates Black Skin With Unattractiveness. [online] Spin. Available at: http://www.spin.com/2014/07/nwabiopic-straight-outta-compton-racist-casting-call-skin/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018]. Understanding Colorism and How It Relates to Sport and Physical Education. (2011). BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM // 125
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 82(2), pp.48-52. Vancouver. Social Science & Medicine, 73(8), pp.1152-1162. Vedantam, S. (2017). Opinion | Shades of Prejudice. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/opinion/19vedantam.ht ml?mtrref=undefined&assetType=opinion [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017]. Veenstra, G. (2011). Mismatched racial identities, colourism, and health in Toronto and Voisine, A. (2018). Skin Color Politics: Colorism and Its Role in Contemporary Society. [online] Freely Magazine. Available at: https://freelymagazine.com/2017/01/07/skincolor-politics-colorism-and-its-role-in-contemporary-society/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2018]. Wannaâ€™s World. (2018). Grown-ish and the Erasure of Darkskinned Women. [online] Available at: http://wannasworld.com/grownisherasure/ [Accessed 19 Mar. 2018]. Washingtonpost.com. (2018). The Legacy of Colorism Reflects Wounds of Racism That Are More Than Skin-Deep. [online] Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/07/10/AR2009071000022_2.html [Accessed 17 Apr. 2018]. Webb, S. (2018). Colorism in the Media Affects Women and Men Differently. [online] Colorism Healing. Available at: http://colorismhealing.org/colorismin-the-media-affects-women-men-differently/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018]. Webb, S. (2018). Who Says Colorism Doesnâ€™t Exist? And What Should We Say To Them?. [online] Colorism Healing. Available at: http://colorismhealing. org/who-says-colorism-doesnt-exist/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018]. Webster, T. (2017). Reimagining the Mixed Race Experience. [online] Shades of Noir. Available at: https://issuu.com/shadesofnoir/docs/reimagining_the_mixed_ race_experien/1?ff=true&e=27061696/53298517 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017]. What-when-how.com. (2018). COLORISM (Social Science). [online] Available at: http:// what-when-how.com/social-sciences/colorism-social-science/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018]. Who.int. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/ public_health/mercury_flyer.pdf [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018]. Wiki.ubc.ca. (2018). Colourism in the Philippines - UBC Wiki. [online] Available at: http://wiki.ubc.ca/Colourism_in_the_Philippines [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018]. Wikipedia (2017). Brown paper bag test: A brown paper bag was used as a way to determine whether or not an individual could have certain privileges; only individuals with a skin color that is the same color or lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed. [image] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Paper_Bag_Test [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017]. Wilder, J. and Cain, C. (2010). Teaching and Learning Color Consciousness in Black 126 // BIOLOGICAL PIGMENT BIAS: PERSPECTIVES ON COLOURISM
Families: Exploring Family Processes and Womenâ€™s Experiences With Colorism. Journal of Family Issues, [online] 32(5), pp.577-604. Available at: http://journals. sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0192513X10390858 [Accessed 1 Jul. 2017]. Wilder, J. and Cain, C. (2010). Teaching and Learning Color Consciousness in Black Families: Exploring Family Processes and Womenâ€™s Experiences With Colorism. Journal of Family Issues, 32(5), pp.577-604. Winters, M. (2018). The Impact of Colorism | The Inclusion Solution. [online] The Inclusion Solution. Available at: http://www.theinclusionsolution. me/the-impact-of-colorism/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018]. Women. Sociological Inquiry, 68(4), pp.517-535. Womensrepublic.net. (2018). Colorism And Anti-Blackness In The Asian Community. [online] Available at: http://www.womensrepublic.net/colorismand-anti-blackness-in-the-asian-community/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018]. Wright, M. (2013). Can I call you Black? The limits of authentic heteronormativity in African Diasporic discourse. African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 6(1), pp.3-16. Zeleny, J. (2017). Senator Reid Apologizes to Obama for Remark on Skin Color. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes. com/2010/01/10/us/politics/10reidweb.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
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DIGITAL RESOURCES. Websites: Colorism Healing. www.colorismhealing.org
Colorism Healing was founded by U.S. writer and educator Sarah L. Webb in July 2013. Mission: Raise critical awareness about colorism by providing a hub of information and resources, Facilitate solutions and healing through creative and critical work Support other efforts to address colorism around the globe
Dr Yaba Blay. www.yabablay.com/
Dr. Yaba Blay is a professor, producer, and #ProfessionalBlackGirl. As a researcher and ethnographer, she uses personal and social narratives to disrupt fundamental assumptions about cultures and identities. As a cultural worker and producer, she uses images to inform consciousness, incite dialogue, and inspire others to action.
Skin Project. www.thejuliearchive.com
Iâ€™ve recently completed my masters where I spent my time researching colourism and how fashion can be used to reduce the problem. Currently, her research & creativity has lead her to creating garments that are designed to create an experience that teaches its wearers what colourism feels like. This is just the beginning of an ongoing process that I will be continuing and I hope that you are open to following her on this journey...
Unfair + Lovely. www.unfairandlovely.com
Uplifting dark-skinned folks across the globe #unfairandlovely
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Podcasts: Emhers: Opening Up The Conversation on Colourism: A Podcast.
Radio 1 & 1 Xtra Stories: Too Dark to mention. www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ p05nwngh
Antonia Odunlami investigates how Colourism affects young people in the UK. She meets musicians, artists, poets, professors and friends, hearing personal stories of how skin-tone bias has played a part in their lives.
Stance Episode 7: Colourism; Artists Singh Twins MBE. www.stitcher.com/podcast/ stancepodcast/stance/e/50335059
In this episode of Stance Podcast, Chrystal Genesis and Heta Fell explore the issue of colourism with live guests, Kay Montano and Dr Aisha Phoenix; they profile internationally acclaimed artists, The Singh Twins MBE; and they interview Yaa Gyasi about her extraordinary debut novel, Homegoing.
Stuff Mom Never Told You: Colorism. www.stuffmomnevertoldyou. com/podcasts/colorism.htm
Why does lighter skin improve women’s chances of getting through school, getting a job and getting married? Cristen and Caroline explore the historical roots, repercussions and crosscultural shades of colorism around the world.
T(w)o Black Girls Episode Two: Dark Girls and Colourism. www.soundcloud.com/ user-154380542
Hello! After an unexpected hiatus we are back with episode two of T(w)o Black Girls. Listen in as we talk about Gucci Mane’s twitter tirade, Prince William’s love for Africa as evoked by animal sounds, give a rundown of points made at an event on Colourism organised by Universal Hood we attended earlier in the summer, and then discuss the absurdity of beauty standards. We finish with shout-outs to Lauren Lambert, the winner of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model, and the wonderful people at @writersofcolour.
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The Documentary Podcast: Michelle Obama: ‘Black Like Me’. www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ p04thw30
Have you ever heard a woman being described as “pretty for a dark skinned girl”? This podcast hears frank and often painful first-hand stories about ‘shadeism’ or ‘colourism’ – discrimination based on skin tone. We are told how decades ago, some African American organisations used the “brown paper bag test” to decide who could become members, with those with darker skins excluded. And we investigate how this prejudice is still affecting people, including in their relationships. For many, the former First Lady, Michelle Obama, has become a role model. By being married to a man with lighter skin, has she changed how black women and girls see themselves? Contributors include the singer-songwriter India Arie.
The Receipts Podcast: 27. Colourism and men aren’t trash. www.soundcloud.com/ thereceiptspodcast/27colourism-men-arent-trash
This week we discuss colourism, skin bleaching and whether or not men are trash. #TheReceiptsPodcast is a fun, honest podcast fronted by four girls who are willing to talk about anything and everything. From relationships to situationships to everyday life experiences, you can expect unadulterated girl talk with no filter.
The Slumflower | COLOURISM & HOW TO NAVIGATE THE WORLD AS A BLACK WOMAN (Featuring Kelechi Okafor). www.soundcloud.com/ theslumflower/colourism
How do you successfully navigate white spaces as a black woman without losing your identity? Are black men protecting black women enough? Is natural hair political? Should you educate white people on racial theory? How should you respond to the most annoying response of all time: ‘but not all white people are racist’?
Who Got The Juice? Podcast 13) Colourism Is It That Deep?. www.soundcloud.com/ gotthejuicebrum/colourismis-it-that-deep
Is colourism still that deep? Is the issue of colourism a factor that effects black & brown people across the globe on a daily? Is it just a thing for the music videos & light-skinned-living rappers?
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Film: A Girl like me Documentary (2005) . Available at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=z0BxFRu_SOw
A Girl like Me is a 2005 documentary by Kiri Davis. The seven-minute documentary examines such things as the importance of color, hair and facial features for young African American women
A Question of colour (1983)
A Question of Color confronts a painful and long taboo subject: the disturbing feelings many African Americans harbor about themselves and their appearance. African American filmmaker Kathe Sandler digs into the often subconscious world of “color consciousness,” a caste system based on how closely skin color, hair texture and facial features conform to a European ideal.
ABC News 20/20 Colorism (2007) We’ve all heard about racism, mostly about whites who discriminate against blacks. But did you know that some blacks also discriminate against other blacks, based on the shade of their skin? “20/20” tested a group of people who were asked to look at photos of faces and then rate how “smart” they thought the people in the photos were. Mixed in among the 60 photos were pictures of some of the same people, but with the photos altered to look darker. Will that affect whether someone is rated smart? You bet. ABC News also talks to several actors who say that they are often type-cast based on being either a light-skinned black or a dark-skinned black. Charcoal (2017).
Award-winning short film ‘Charcoal’ tackles colorism on a generational level.
Dark Girls Documentary (2011)
Filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry explore a deep-seated bias within black culture against women with darker skin.
Light Girls Documentary (2015). Available at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=PDns0nLvHW4
An in-depth look into the lives of light-skinned African-American women, the prejudices they face and the seemingly hierarchical nature of the society.
No Shade (2018)
Drama · Told through the prism of love, relationships, dating and marriage, No Shade provides a raw perspective on the issue of colourism and what happens when looking for love in the right place, goes wrong.
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Pinky (Pinki) 1949. Available at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=P6X-uCP_1c0
Pinky (Jeanne Crain) is a black woman so fairskinned she was able to pose as white throughout nursing school. Newly graduated, she flees south to visit her grandmother (Ethel Waters) after a doctor, unaware of her true ancestry, proposes to her. Unsure how to react, she looks to her grandmother, who warns her that only trouble will come of an interracial marriage. Pinky agrees and instead stays to help her grandmother care for an elderly, rich, and fatally ill white woman (Ethel Barrymore).
The Darker side of fair Documentary (2004)
Explores historical and contemporary fair skin issues in India.
Yellow Fever Animation (2018). Available at: www.vimeo.com/122574484
The effect of globalization on the African woman’s definition of beauty.
Youtube: THE GRAPEVINE | Colorism | Episode 8. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KU-8iOyiE&t=2s
We’re discussing colorism. How has it affected you? We discuss the documentary “Light Girls”.
Amara La Negra Exposes Colorism On Love & Hip Hop. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=qZlqLkGLEPM
Colorism in the Latin & Hispanic community
BBC 3: Dark-Skinned Girls On Colourism | Sister. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=X6V1AjDqXnk
Colourism is a real and persistent problem for darkskinned people of colour. It differs from racism, in that it’s about how dark your skin is. Racism usually comes from a different ethnic group, but colourism can come even from someone from the same ethnic group as you. Here, three dark-skinned women talk about the frequency of colourism in music lyrics and music videos, on TV, in Bollywood movies, in cosmetics, and in dating and relationships.
Black Fathers Reinforcing Colorism & Self Hate (examples).
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Black Panther Colorism?! www.youtube.com/ watch?v=EJgYvVneo9M
There is not one lighter skinned person in Black Panther and here are my thoughts on that...
Breeny Lee: Dark Skinned Girls Are Unattractive (ft Jennie Jenkins). www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1fdZaSQGsf4
In this video we share our experiences and our views on the being dark skinned growing up, we also give you handy tips on how to leverage on your dark skin too! We are proud to be beautiful dark skinned, black women! There’s more to life than your complexion and you are so so so so much more!
Chrissie. www.youtube.com/user/ KissedByVenus
I spread my message passionately to improve the self esteem, self worth and confidence of dark skinned women negatively affected by colorism. If you don’t like, agree or identify with my niche, this channel isn’t for you.
Colorism | Pratyusha Pilla | TEDxSugarLand. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=_L4-mOJWhIE
Beauty is a subjective experience and no child should grow up rejecting his or her own face. How can we create a society that accepts the beauty of each individual?
Colorism in Latinx is Bullsh!t.
Colorism in the Media. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=MvS0mz0_Big
This documentary specifically focus on the history and media’s present portrayal of Black women in the media. This film is approximately 9 minutes produced by me, India Bouldin, at North Lawndale College Prep High School through my Senior Documentary Class with Free Spirit Media. This documentary is relevant, because Black women in history have always been seen in a negative light and affects how Black women interact with each other as well as how society’s perceives Black women. After you watch this film ask yourself; Why is this a problem? Why isn’t this ever discussed? How does this affect me? What can I do to help young women around me feel good about themselves?
Confessions of a D Girl: Colorism and Global Standards of Beauty | Chika Okoro | TEDxStanford.
If you look like me, you’re used to colorism, says Stanford Graduate Business School student Chika Okoro. She calls the phenomenon known as colorism – discrimination against those with a darker skin tone -- “both as sinister and as subtle as racism.” In a world where light skin, light eyes and long “real” hair are sought after features, Okoro tells us how she copes, and what we can do to unlearn this deep rooted, destructive mindset.
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Dark Skinned Girls. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=01oiMNAf Vx4
Directed by Marian Edusei
Do darker-skinned women have a tougher time finding love - BBC London. . www.youtube.com/ watch?v=zLtlWQpxhqQ
Few prominent black men have wives and girlfriends whose skin is darker than their own. Barack Obama is one notable exception. Our reporter Valley Fontaine travelled from London to Washington where it’s Black History Month exploring what is known as Shadism or Colourism.
Doll test - The effects of racism on children (ENG). www.youtube.com/ watch?v=QRZPw-9sJtQ&t=23s
The “doll test” is a psychological experiment designed in the 1940s in the USA to test the degree of marginalization felt by African American children caused by prejudice, discrimination and racial segregation.
Doll Test. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=tkpUyB2xgTM
Video that BSC4 Scholars watched on 2/712
For the Love of Brown Girls. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=gaPyW5DuzSU
Three African American seniors at Science Leadership Academy decided to investigate the idea of colorism.
Intro to ColorismHealing.org. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=gFtanEqCyco
A brief introduction to ColorismHealing.org.
Lets Talk About It: Colorism & Anti-Blackness in Latinos. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=AeLhiyeiJHg
Group Discussion among Young Adults from New York. Raw & Uncut
No Shade film director Clare Anyiam-Osigwe speaks on Colourism to the BBC World Service. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=uuEDeUpv3hc
Friend zoned for being too dark? Lightening creams for asian and black women? Being seen as privileged for dating someone lighter? Julian Keane (Newsday) talks to Clare about Colourism and its’ deep rooted themes as she discusses her debut directorial feature film No Shade.
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No Shade Trailer. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=FdapTykyLuE
Jade, a successful freelance photographer is hopelessly in love with her best friend of 10 years, bar manager Danny. She discovers through several challenging encounters both personally and professionally that the one thing keeping them from happy ever after is her inherent beauty - her complexion and skin tone. Her shade.
Shades Of Her: A Commentary on Colorism. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=fy5wRFLASrY
â€œShades of Her: A Commentary on Colorism,â€? is a documentary that explores the nuances of skin tone in African American women in a unique and poignant way. By utilizing both dance and expression, the viewer sees and hears women share their stories of how the color of their skin has affected their lives, how they see themselves, and how they interact with others. The film aims at breaking down stereotypical barriers placed on African American women, all while advocating empowerment and unity among women.
The Dark Skinned Beauties Channel.
The History Of Colorism in US Television.
The Issue of Colorism Dr. Cheryl Grills. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=3jaxngvGdAw
Black Women and Color in The African American Community.
What Dark-Skinned People Will Never Tell You. www.youtube.com/watch?v=76X4J vjpXug&list=RDQMidcSE9t5ndI
These standards of beauty travel.
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Divine Dark Skin. www.ddsmagazine.com
Where black & dark skinned beauty/talent is primarily promoted & highly valued. Love your skin!
This group is not a “woe is me” sympathy group nor is it a group that is passive about any form of colorism. The goal is to share experiences, helpful suggestions, solutions, ideas and anything else that is beneficial to dark skinned black women. This group is not a “woe is me” sympathy group nor is it a group that is passive about any form of colorism. The goal is to share experiences, helpful suggestions, solutions, ideas and anything else that is beneficial to dark skinned black women.
Pretty Period. www.prettyperiod.me/
I’ve spent many years researching and writing about Black body politics, particularly as it relates to skin tone i.e. colorism and skin color politics. For the most part, when we talk about skin color politics, we focus primarily on the sociopolitical DISadvantages that come with being dark-skinned in a society that continues to privilege and prioritize White/Western standards of beauty. Take for example, Bill Duke’s documentary, Dark Girls. Although it was a necessary documentary and indeed resonated with *some* my own experiences, something about what I saw in the documentary bothered me. Not because it wasn’t true, but because it was the ONLY truth I have long seen discussed. As an academic, I could have simply written about it (which I did) or discussed it in my classrooms (which I do), but after doing this work for what feels like my entire life, I’m at a point where I would much rather create than to critique. Enter ‘Pretty. Period,’ a (soon to be) transmedia project created as a visual missive in reaction to the oh-so-popular, yet oh-so-offensive “compliment” – “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” Our collective response is, “No, we’re pretty. PERIOD.”
Spring Melanin. www.springmelanin.wordpress.com
A bi-monthly event. A safe space for dark skin WoC. Curated for nurturing healing conversation & relaxation, self care & self love
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The Colorism Project Inc. www.colorismproject.com/
The purpose of the Intraracial Colorism Project is to study and report the effects of colorism on the thought processes, views, opinions, behavior, and skin color preferences of people of color. We propose to develop strategies to educate, enlighten and eventually eradicate colorism. The Intraracial Colorism Project, Inc., Through donations, sponsorship and other funding, will investigate colorism using several project components that include a focus on unity of people of color.
Twitter Users to Follow: @AmaraLaNegrALN @BeautyMySkin @blackwomen_biz @BlkGirlsAllowed @chrissiesway @ColorismHealing @ColorismIssue @colorismissue @colorismjournal @colorismproject @ColorismWatch @Colorlines @ddsmagazine @fiyawata @mixedracefaces @NoShadeFilm @shadesdoc @SkinnedMovie @SpringMelanin_ @unfairlovely @WannasWorld
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We salute you!
Biological Pigment Bias: Perspectives On Colourism Â© Shades Of Noir 2018