top of page

How is 'colourism' affecting our black women?

It’s become noticeable that people are striving to appreciate black women more in 2020. However, have we left it too late to empower a generation so torn by unjust beauty standards? We see a lot of fair-skinned black women in the media, who are left to represent black beauty, but this slanted ideal has left a damaging impact, especially on the women who have battled discrimination simply for their darker pigment. We can’t help but notice the impractical view portrayed throughout television and advertisements, and how it is creating a rather biased and inaccurate idea of the black community. Colourism is a big issue in today’s society, often drowned out by the term racism – Many people forget that internalised racism and the discrimination against someone’s skin tone is very much a real issue. Black women are just as likely to face colourism from their mixed-race competitors as well as members who don’t fall into the BAME community.

What is colourism?

Colourism refers to the prejudice against someone’s skin tone. It is quite evident that our lighter-skinned black women are often glorified a lot more, and deemed appropriate to align with the beauty standards. Many may argue, that the rise in black women in the media, regardless of skin tone is a good thing, in terms of presenting more diversity.

Although this a very valid point, it strays towards the idea of branding the community as one type. It creates a very fabricated idea that all women of African descent must be of lighter skin in order to succeed within the media, advertising, and mostly, to be deemed as attractive. With the immense rise in fair-skinned women being presented, it conveys the idea that this is the normality, with audiences trying to live up to model standards.

So, how does this impact the black community?

Many women fall victim to the trap of skin bleaching, in order to be deemed as ‘beautiful’. Although it is a choice, it becomes very addictive as one may have to continue this process for an extended period to achieve obtainable results.

Skin whitening has been an issue as early as 200BCE – Ancient Greek men would lighten their skin, and use white lead face masks. With this idea so heavily imprinted into society, it’s no wonder that both men and women feel obliged to resort to this. Additionally, skin whitening is often referred to as ‘toning’, conveying the idea that the pigment ‘ must’ be corrected, first insinuated by removing dark spots from the skin. Many young black girls grow up in households where close relatives result to this, becoming the only normality young people may know.

Following on from this, let’s talk about the original stems of colourism. Much like many other racist ideals, colourism was born out of slavery. Slave masters would rape enslaved black women. The lighter-skinned offspring were granted preferential treatment over their darker-skinned peers. This has since been continued throughout time by systematic racism and internalised by black people.

With this being said, we often see how light-skinned people are often praised for their appearance, with Eurocentric features often being glorified; looser curls, smaller noses, the list goes on. Colourism in the media ensures that these individuals are deemed as highly desirable. As well as this, darker-skinned black men are often accused of gravitating more towards light-skinned women due to their Eurocentric features.

Although this can be solely down to preference, it also demonizes the worth of darker-skinned black women and demonstrates how internalised racism within the BAME community is a large issue.

Dark skin and online data

Search results via Google can confirm that preferential treatment towards lighter-skinned individuals still exists, with more positive data existing. Likewise, the results are based on popular searches, conveying the idea that lighter tone is often fetishized and favoured. However, when searching for ‘darker-skinned’ data, it is often coupled with imperfections, negativity and presented as something correctable.

Daily negative reflections

In relation, dark-skinned black women are always reminded that their worth as a woman means less if their pigment is darker. They suffer unjust treatment and often receive less opportunities due to their differences. Likewise, the portrayal of black women with their natural hair is often looked down upon, as the thickness and naturalness does not align with the ideal beauty standards.

These prejudiced views are extremely harmful towards young, darker-skinned women, struggling with their identity. They fall victim to a corrupt society, targeted towards the most impressionable.

Additionally, many individuals with less real-world encounters with members of the BAME community may fail to understand that certain appearances embracing natural African culture actually exist. This creates a rather counterfeit idea of what the BAME community is like, and instead, shows the favourable and more desirable individuals.

To conclude, today’s society could still be accused of excluding our dark - skinned black women. They fall into one of the largest percentages of single women, supposedly deemed undatable? their romantic lives have been stunted by the prejudice accumulated by colourism.

Many women feeling they are not as valued as lighter-skinned women when seeking romantic partners.

Although this is an ever-changing issue, it seems as if things are not progressing fast enough, in favour of equality for black women. With women still largely considered to be on the lower side of society’s scale in terms of value, worth and treatment, it is important to remember that our darker-skinned women also fall into a marginalised regime, where they are more likely to face further unfair consequences.

Our appearance and morals are something very unique and important to us. Although differences may set us apart, it is important to remember that beauty is not limited to a biased and preferential standard.


bottom of page