The Physical & Emotional Dangers of Colorism

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Colorism is real.

If you don’t know what it is, Oxford dictionary defines it as “Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone.” Colorism can occur between people of differing backgrounds, but it typically happens within people of the same ethnicity or race. Many believe that if you’re of a lighter skin tone, you look better, and to many, in their minds you are better. When asked how colorism has played a role in her life, Nadaya Richardson, a freshman at George Westinghouse College Prep says, “I’ve seen colorism before with boys who try to talk to me because I’m [of a] lighter [skin tone]. They put down other girls and say ‘oh, she’s better because she has lighter skin,’ and to me that’s not just not okay.”

After being asked the same question, Veronica Ruiz, a student at Lane Tech College Prep High School, provides a focus on media and colorism, “The media also seems to hold a preference for lighter skin. For example, even though the majority of Latinx are of dark complexion, you still will always see actors of lighter skin playing characters in Spanish telenovelas.” Such media tendency holds true even outside Latinx media, seeing as we can see a preference for lighter skin actors in almost any race/ethnicity. Colorism can be seen in a variety of situations, with every situation having a crucial impact on those of darker skin. The impact is so big that many find themselves changing themselves in order to fit the ideal “light skin” complexion.

Melanin is the pigment that is responsible for skin complexion: the more melanin that you have, the darker your skin is. Having a lighter complexion has been seen as superior for a very long time now. This bad belief has lead many dark skin people towards the use of skin products in order to lighten their skin tone. This process is called “skin bleaching,” and is known for being bad for your health. Popular skin bleaching products, such as creams, have chemicals that can critically damage the skin. These chemicals include, but are not limited to: tretinoin, mercury, kojic acid and most dangerously hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is the main contributor in the skin bleaching process: it stops skin from yielding the substance accountable for skin color (melanin). According to Web MD, hydroquinone is linked to skin cancer, because a dwindle in melanin not only leads to lighter skin tone, but also to less protection for someone’s skin, therefore making it easier to get skin cancer.

Even with a bad reputation, skin bleaching is still very popular and many people still use the threatening procedure. So why risk your health just to achieve a lighter skin tone? The answer is rooted upon the colorism that exists in varying ethnicities/races. Psychology shows that people seek conformity, especially when it comes to blending into ethnic or racial groups. People typically don’t want to be inferior within their own ethnicity/race, and instead go through vast heights simply to be viewed as part of “the elite.”

Survival of the fittest is human nature; so much that it’s present even within colorism, where being of darker complexion proves to affect one’s life emotionally and physically.

 

By Jaqueline Calvillo, Senior, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School

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