Colorism and its Impact

Updated: Sep 6

By: Gabriela Bosolasco Romero

Colorism is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘prejudice and discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favouring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin’. How does this differ from racism? Two people from the same race can have vastly different experiences when it comes to prejudice solely due to a difference in skin tone.

The difference in treatment between those with lighter skin tones and those with darker skin tones is blatantly obvious. Light skin black women will have a completely different experience from dark skin black women. This can be seen just by looking to the entertainment industry, and seeing how many light skin influencers have been given the opportunities to succeed versus dark skin. Those with dark skin are faced with fetishisation on a completely different scale, with people seeking them out in order to have “beautiful light skin babies” or because they “look so exotic.”

Colorism can also be seen when we look towards East and South-East Asia. Skin lightening culture has been prevalent for a long time, and there is almost an obsession with white skin. So much so that there is an unbelievable amount of Korean skin lightening creams and serums available on the market.

Even when we look to South Asian and Latino cultures, colorism remains a prevalent issue. In both cultures, men and women with darker complexions are rejected meanwhile those with fair complexions are seen as ideal and beautiful, which consequently set the standard of how everyone should look. In Latin American novela’s, fair actors are almost always cast and those who are deemed “too dark” have their faces whited out with makeup.

But why does any of this matter? How does this affect youth?

Colorism has been normalised. It’s deemed acceptable to degrade dark skin women, make them feel less than and compare them to vile things solely because of their skin tone. Not only that, but the lack of representation of dark skinned women in the media, or casting lighter skinned actors in the places of dark skin characters, like the case of Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give. Along with profits being made from products and treatments enabling the ideology of colorism, and we can see how colorism is unfortunately being normalised. Kids grow up feeling like they are less than because of the color of their skin, and it’s not just one or two cases. I have friends who have first hand experiences with colorism, and I guarantee you do too. One friend telling me, “I used to use skin whitening products because my family always said I was too dark.”

I know some people might be thinking, “but isn’t it just a preference?”

No. There is a very distinct difference between a preference and colorism. Degrading and dehumanising a large group of people based off of how much pigment is in their skin will never be a preference or an opinion.

Nobody should have to feel like they are less than just because of their skin colour.


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