The Issue of Colorism in Modern Society

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Colourism...what is the deal with it? What is Colourism? How does being a coloured person earn an impact in our life? Will my life be any different if my skin colour was lighter? Will I ever stop being judged for being dark-skinned? If I paint myself white, then will I be considered as a beautiful woman? Should I embrace whiteness to feel civilized inside and out? Coming to think about this, we have many people who are disguising in so many ways to be someone they are not just to fit in. So why did skin colour matter so much that it created a huge impact in people’s lives. Colourism has become a social construct that exists everywhere we go.

By having a darker shade in skin, being stereotyped by different people around you is very common scenario in this era. Define by Webster’s dictionary, “colour is defined as a visual attribute of bodies or substances that depends upon spectral composition of the simulating the retina and its associated neural structures”. This explains that you can’t judge a book by its cover which deliberately means that one cannot be stereotyped by their skin colour or judged their civility by their race. Hence, it is very unfortunate that this judgmental and discrimination mentality is still very much alive among this society that one’s character and background assumed based on the skin colour. Racism and colourism is an issue that has been talked about for ages and it has not got us anywhere but only adding ideas into this matter.

As for my point of view, being a coloured person myself, insecurities have crept in many ways during my childhood days, especially in moments being around with my fair-skinned friends. Even though my friends often take me as one of them but there are times that the society around me differ me from my friends by making me understand that I am different.

This society that we live in today kept reminding me and showed me the existence of racism is still very much alive. It is very much decided that if you did not look a certain way then you just could not fit in or share equality among others. I do not understand why does racism and colourism is given importance when those are the factors that are segregating and tearing the society apart? The more this issue becomes a discussion topic among people it is just like adding fuel to the fire. Over the years we have ultimately developed beliefs and biasedness about the colour of one’s skin that have been transmitted across countries and continents.

Applying post-colonial approach, skin colour was a discomfort tragedy that was faced by the dark-skinned Africans during colonization and slavery. The oppression that were gone through by the Blacks physically and mentality eventually resulted in a term called double consciousness. The Blacks who were abused and involved in the slave-trade have lost their belongingness and identity and feel trapped with dual personalities. During colonization, the Europeans claimed that whatever that has been existed within the European circular was civilized and always right, such as their language, ethics, skin colour, culture and whatever that the others practiced were considered ‘uncivilized’. The Blacks in European countries do not have true self-consciousness, reasoning they only see themselves through the revelation and perceptions from the Whites and that is the term of double consciousness where they have the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.

The term of double consciousness is clearly portrayed in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. For example, the protagonist, Pecola often imagines how different her situation of life would be if only she was a white girl with blue eyes. This is resulted of her always being called ugly because of her skin colour and eventually her ultimate goal was to become a white person in order to feel beautiful.

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So she would spend long hours seeing herself in a mirror trying to discover the secret of her ugliness. Tragically, the desire to turn into a white and beautiful girl by having blue eyes led her to despair, frustration and insanity in the end. Her madness is a result of post-colonial effects and the oppression of double consciousness. The cruel treatment Pecola faced as dark-skinned child shows that those who are born as Blacks are unfortunate ones since birth and this will continue hunting them down forever which eventually did become the reason of Pecola’s insanity.

Skin colour term can also be supported by Marxism approach. Resulting from the post-colonial effects, the Blacks were influenced by White supremacy and found that they were unable to change the discriminatory status which affects their class system. The racial injustice that has occurred between the Blacks and Whites affects their class system.

The White dominators have pushed the Blacks into the internalization of the negative stereotypes of their skin colour which represent blackness as depravity. Marxism shows that being Black or White have turned into the touchstone of granting or denying advantages in a social class system. Since skin colour is seen as a social construct, hence, the difference of being treated nicely or cruelly also depends on the colour of your skin, no matter how successful you are among the society, if you are coloured then you will be constantly reminded that you are different when it comes to social class. Even how hard the Blacks try to fit in among the Whites or in some cases even become more civilized than them but they are still discriminated on their exterior appearances.

For example, the protagonist Kehinde in Buchi Emecheta’s Kehinde gives us the image of the struggles that the Blacks go through in London. Kehinde is a well-educated woman who has spent years in London and yet she was slapped by racism when she returned to London after she left her husband in Lagos.

Despite having a successful career in her previous job and with good paper qualification, she struggled to get a proper job and later was discriminated because she was a coloured woman. This shows the discrimination and the humility the Blacks face in the European countries where they can’t change their identity as slaves in a White country.

Another approach that could frame the term skin colour is by using the theory of Psychoanalysis. The effects of post-colonial have got the Blacks repressed emotions and experiences caused psychological problems that have a huge impact on the psyche. The constant humiliation, abuses, and discrimination have oppressed the Blacks mentally and physically. The image of slavery has marked their entire live hood for generations and generations that they could never escape their fate of being ill-treated forever.

For example, we have Jean Rhys who is the author of Wide Sargasso Sea who portrays herself as the protagonist, Antoinette, in that novel of hers. Born from a Welsh father and a Creole mother, Rhys grew up feeling alienated and alone in the Caribbean as a white girl in a chiefly black community like Antoinette. Rhy’s parental heritage positions her between two competing ideologies that exist in the Rhy’s psyche which is also portrayed in her heroines through her novels. Her complex upbringing and life experiences seem to explain the complexity of all her works. Jean Rhy’s displacements are shown in the novel through the protagonist.

In conclusion, skin colour has been one of the most controversial issues to talk about among the society and evidently it is still is. However, discussing more and more about it is practically like teaching and reminding the future generations to see the differences in everyone shade which will eventually tear apart the society even more. The debate of this issue still lingers around among the people and it is not a surprise that this social construct is still very much alive as it is still being proven in many ways till to this day. So the more we talk about it, the more life we are giving it.

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