Colorism: Are We Overplaying It?

Before I get into the meat of this blog, let me address a few things:

Do I believe colorism is real? Yes.

Do I believe colorism is a problem in the Black community? Yes.

Am I one of those people who believe that social ills are not real and only exists in our mind? No.

I also want to state from the outset that a lot of this is inquiry because as much as I get it, I don’t get it.

Now that that’s out of the way, the other day I was on FB and someone on my timeline made a statement about how colorism negatively affected her life from her early childhood up through her current adulthood. It read as if it was a source of deep childhood trauma for her. I felt bad for her, and not in a patronizing way. I felt bad that throughout those years, there was apparently nobody in her life to affirm her to the extent that most of her negative experiences (seemed) to be a trigger in reference to her skin tone.

This is me….


Clearly, I’m dark-skinned. I’m not totally blind to the fact that there is unfairness and injustice based upon skin tone, not only in our community but outside of our community as well. However, unless someone were to examine specific situations in my life and point out to me where my skin tone was the problem, I’d say colorism is something that I was never actually touched by.

While I was married, I read and listened to Black women talk about how they felt colorism was affecting their dating life. Many of the women expressed a belief that if they were light-skinned or lighter, they’d have an easier time navigating the dating scene.

When my marriage ended, and I eventually thought about getting back into the dating scene, it never occurred to me that being dark-skinned would be a problem for me (and it wasn’t).

I’ll admit to reading and listening to some of these anecdotes cynically. Reading ire about all the video girls being racially ambiguous was funny to me. I felt it was a stupid hill to die on to be upset about all the video vixens not being dark enough. We’re supposed to be mad that we’re not being chosen to shake our asses half-naked in a terrible rap video for a terrible song? To me, it’s still odd to want that on a life resume.

In fact, I’ve only ever read or heard women talk about colorism as it relates to male attention.

Then, there’s the peculiarity that comes from the fact that many of the women I’ve witnessed be the loudest about colorism are also swirlers. I wonder about their potential children who will likely be light-skinned or racially ambiguous and how they plan to reconcile that.

It is concerning to me that so many women carry this burden well into adulthood enough to have days-long conversations about it on social media or to evoke and apply it to situations where colorism appears irrelevant. I loathe the thought that Black women aren’t living up to their potential due to insecurities about their skin tone (real or perceived).

Is it how we are being raised? I grew up in a family with a noticeably fair-skinned grandmother and “brown-skinned” grandfather who had 6 living children who were all lighter than “brown” except the youngest twin who is about the color of Wesley Snipes. One of these children is my mother. I do not ever recall anyone making references to skin tone when discussing people. There was no insinuation that any tone was better. We were just all Black. Maybe that’s why colorism is hardly ever in my mind.

Is the fixation on colorism causing some of our self-sabotaging behaviors? For example, I can’t be the only one who has noticed a “mammy” complex amongst women of a certain hue. Has colorism convinced them that that’s their lot in life? Or was it some other familial conditioning that did that?

At what point, if ever, does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are women finding colorism more because they are looking for it? Is colorism more a chip on our shoulder than something that bears the weight that many of us claim it does?

I’m looking to hear your perspectives.

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