Colorism: Light-Skinned African-American Women Explain The Discrimination They Face


On a recent episode of “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” Iyanla Vanzant joined Oprah to discuss the issue of colorism, the prejudices people can face based on the lightness or darkness of their skin tone. While many understand colorism as the discrimination against darker-skinned African-Americans, two of Oprah’s lighter-skinned audience members surprise Iyanla with the colorism discrimination they face as well.

Though one of the women has seen first-hand how some of her darker-skinned family members are treated, she says that she, too, struggled with discrimination. “Being a light-skinned girl, you get called names,” she tells Iyanla. “You get called ‘lite-brite,’ you get called ‘high yellow,’ ‘red bone’ This is a reality every day.”

Having longer hair or lighter skin, she continues, makes others in her community assume she thinks she is prettier than them — something she says simply isn’t true. “You’re alienated from your own people. You’re never black enough,” she says. “But we’re still black in America. None of us feel advantaged.”

Read more and see video via Colorism: Light-Skinned African-American Women Explain The Discrimination They Face (VIDEO).


One thought on “Colorism: Light-Skinned African-American Women Explain The Discrimination They Face

  1. I empathize with light skinned women who have been physically assaulted due to their complexion/features but beyond that, nope. Being called “redbone” and “lite brite” is nothing, NOTHING like being compared to charcoal, dirt and feces, being rejected by men of your own race, even of your own complexion because you’re “too dark”, being told by spiteful family members that you will never be considered beautiful or worthy of love because of your skin tone and having those ideas affirmed by the total lack of positive representation in the media, being denied your womanhood and by extension your humanity because our society has associated dark with masculinity and light with femininity.

    Yes, of course light skinned black people face racism, no one denies this. But not all racism is equal. Racism, like all social ills, is nuanced. Lights skinned blacks are still spared certain forms of discrimination that their darker peers face and this goes all the way back to slavery when the slave children of the slave owners were granted certain privileges that their fully black siblings did have by virtue of the fact that they had features that white racists deemed more worthy, AKA more adjacent to the European ideal of beauty. And sadly, the black descendants of slaves partook in upholding the legacy of slavery by perpetuating it amongst their own kind. Who came up with the idea of a paper bag test? It wasn’t white people. We didn’t invent racism, but we internalize it to the extent enacting it against our own. We take advantage of the little privilege we do have to feel better about ourselves at the expense of those who face racism in every aspect of their lives and have absolutely no kind of privilege in any situation relating to race.

    Colorism is a junior version of racism. It’s the child of white supremacy. And just like racism against white people isn’t a thing, neither is colorism against light skinned black people. You can’t be oppressed by a belief system that’s designed to benefit you.


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