How colourism Is perpetuated by the media and how to stop it
*Disclaimer: This post was written by the author of the post in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of United Nations Association Youth Platform (UNAYP).*
Colourism is the act of favouring lighter skin over darker skin. This can be seen amongst many ethnic groups. However, it is most significant and perpetuated within the Black and Asian communities. Colourism bleeds into all areas of our society and can be a cause for a multitude of mental health issues for those who do not benefit from it. While we are very aware of this issue and how it is affecting millions of people around the world, the media continues to perpetuate and enforce ideas of colourism on our society, making it more difficult for us to break free from its shackles and look towards more progressive change.
One significant example can be seen in Hollywood movies. In the book ‘The Hate U Give’, the main character, Starr Carter, is described as a dark-skinned black woman while in the film adaptation she is played by Amandla Stenburg, a lighter-skinned black woman. Stenburg played the role well, but this is just one of the many examples of characters who are written as dark-skinned being replaced or played by lighter-skinned counterparts. As a result, many dark-skinned black children, specifically those that identify as black women, lack accurate and diverse representation on the big screen. In the situations where a dark-skinned black woman can finally be on screen, they are reduced to "the ethnic best-friend" and perpetuate negative stereotypes furthering the "colourism problem".
You may think that a lack of representation on screen is a minor issue, one that does not require our attention and our efforts to change. Media influences how society thinks, moves and feels. The high level of colourism in the media gushes into every other area of society. Dark-skinned black girls are three times more likely to be suspended from school than their lighter-skinned counterparts. They are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and racial abuse (Blay, 2021). Until we begin to tackle the way the media presents dark-skinned black people, these numbers, facts and statistics of women, in particular, will not change. So how do we begin to tackle this issue? How do we portray the beauty, power and elegance of dark-skinned black people to a society that has been blinded to it?
The key is through social media. Even though mainstream media is perpetuating and enforcing this problem, social media and the many movements occurring across it are igniting conversation and shifting the standard. As a dark-skinned black woman, seeing celebrities and influencers who have the same skin tone as me expressing themselves so freely and confidently helps improve my self-esteem. Seeing them stand up and disprove societal norms and expectations forced upon black women gives me the confidence to do the same. Owning our space on social media inspires us to live our lives with strength and understand how rare and gorgeous we are.
From personal experience, diversifying my social media page to include beautiful people from all races and walks of life has helped me come to terms with the beauty in individuality and how true strength and charm comes from within. One day, I hope the rest of society can see that too.