LET'S TALK COLORISM

Much as we are proud of the many things that make us unique as Latinos, there are things we need to confront once and for all. The issue of colorism within the Latino community is one of those topics we tend to avoid because it makes us uncomfortable. Colorism is evident within the Latino community, and it’s something that has been passed down from one generation to the next. It’s our responsibility to address this issue instead of allowing it to pit ourselves against each other. In case you don’t understand what colorism is, it is prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on their skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Colorism dates back to slavery when slave owners usually gave preferential treatment to slaves with fairer complexions. Colorism within the Latino community has existed for centuries, and it’s about time we fight it with the same urgency as racism.  The more we avoid this issue, the more we will continue to tear each other apart. 

But why does colorism exist? 

Colorism simply exists because we’ve been taught to celebrate and accept those with lighter skin tones. We are conditioned to see individuals with a lighter skin tone as superior to those with a dark skin tone. As I mentioned, it’s something that is learned from the previous generations. Sometimes we may find ourselves alienating those with darker skin unconsciously.  The mass media also plays a huge role in propagating colorism in many ways. Stereotypes in television and film that portray light skin as ‘cool’ and dark skin as ‘less cool’ are prevalent across all mass media channels. Research has demonstrated that prolonged exposure to mass media predicts a decrease in self-esteem for dark-skinned individuals, especially young. Even in movies featuring Latinos tend to cast individuals with a lighter skin tone in a positive light, while subordinating dark skin actors and actresses. Social media as well seems to have catalyzed colorism within the Latino community, whereby light-skinned Latinas are painted as desirable based on their images as compared to their dark-skinned counterparts. There are many other reasons why colorism exists within the Latino community.  

Colorism is a destructive and dangerous by-product of white supremacy, and combating it within the Latino community is an urgent matter. The more we turn a blind to the destructive belief system, the more it causes our men, women, and children to measure their self-worth based on their skin color. Colorism only serves to create divisions within our community, and it costs us a lot. It’s even causing our young women to opt for harmful skin lightening products.  

I strongly believe that we can rise above the issue of colorism the moment we start talking about it. The good thing is that it’s possible to get rid of it through education and integration. Latinos, particularly young people must be educated about the history of Latinos to make them understand that regardless of the skin tone, we belong to the same community and culture.