Colorism in Modern Society

Has anyone ever wondered what it is like for young females with dark complexion in generation Z? Without a doubt. As a Gen Z er, I know we are one of the biggest groups who use social media a lot. I can speak from experience when I say I have encountered some of the most absurd sayings on social media. I find remarks like “dark skin women are noisy and unpleasant” and “light skin women are superior to dark complexion women” to be offensive and untrue. Never should a woman’s intelligence or personality be predicated on the color of her skin. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, but some people fail to realize that.

“Col·or·ism, prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group” (Definitions from Oxford Languages). Honestly, this practice is a product of racism in the United States, which has been a serious emotional and psychological battle within the African American community. Since slavery, colorism has existed (, 2021). Slaves with darker color were assigned unpleasant labor outside in the heat while slaves with lighter skin were assigned household chores by white owners. As time progressed, the preference for lighter skin continued and became evident within the Black community. Consider the “paper bag test,” which was applied to assess if a person was permitted to enter fraternities, nightclubs, and churches. As a result, anyone who was darker than the color of a brown paper bag would not be admitted. 

The effects of colorism can also cause negative thoughts on physical beauty and glamor. Girls with dark complexions who internalize colorism start to describe themselves as ugly, feel inferior to others with lighter skin, or develop to dislike specific physical characteristics. Even if they do not say it out loud, they will demonstrate it by their actions. For example, people might begin to bleach their skin, wear lighter makeup, or avoid the sun. All of this contributes to the low self esteem of a dark skin woman. When I was younger, I desired “pretty” eyes, “good” hair, or whatever society deemed attractive, but as I grew older, I realized that my dark skin, brown eyes, and 4C hair were all beautiful in their own right. I felt a surge of confidence, which inspires me to motivate other girls who think of themselves in the same way I used to.Colorism is breaking the African American community apart, and it’s sad. It’s bad enough that other races occasionally treat us unfairly and make fun of us, but it’s really heartbreaking when black people do it to each other. If we want to see progress, we must first acknowledge and recognize colorism. Another solution is to educate ourselves on what colorism is. Because some people don’t feel qualified to have these talks, many are hesitant to start them. Even while you might not have all the solutions, simply encouraging someone to learn more about colorism can have a big impact because people frequently mix up preference and colorism. It’s fine to have preferences, but dismissing someone because of their skin color is simply wrong and colorist. In conclusion, I have realized that being a dark skin girl today will never be enough for society’s standards, but it’s fine with me and I love that. For my dark skin girls out there and any girl who has experienced colorism, remember you are beautiful just the way you are. Do not let society change your perspective on yourself. Your validation matters more than anybody’s.

Leah Saahene – Loyola Academy – DMSF Class of 2026

Image: Aniya Lyons