A student essay.

“I used to wish that I can wake up one day lighter or wash my face and think that it would change. I thought it was dirt and I tried to clean it off but it wouldn’t come off.” This is from a person that wasn’t comfortable in their own skin. In today’s society the youth are concerned about who’s light skin or dark skin despite the fact that all these skin colors fall under being African American. This is an example of colorism. Colorism involves distinctions based on skin color (light, medium and dark) and results in the favorable or disparate treatment of individuals based on the lightness or darkness of their skin color. If you’re a person that is dark skin you’re viewed differently from those who are light skin. Being a lighter skin color, it is believed you think of yourself as being superior to others of a different skin color. It can be determined that this view of skin color originated from slavery, the media, especially social networks, and as result there is insecurity within individuals, those being dark skin girls.

Slavery is one factor that led to the conception of skin colors that exists today. “During the era of slavery, light-complexioned Blacks, often the offspring of the White slave owners and enslaved Africans, were given preferential treatment via assignment to housework in stark contrast to darker skinned Blacks, who were usually assigned to outdoor, hard-labor tasks (Keith & Herring, 1991; Sandler, 1994; Scales-Trent, 1995). Even with the abolition of slavery, a skin-tone stratification persisted wherein lighter skinned African Americans operated in a generally higher socioeconomic stratum than did their darker skinned counterparts.” This view of lighter skinned African Americans being better than darker skin colored African Americans started during slavery and has continued to the present day. Back then, dark skinned workers had to be outside, while the lighter skinned workers got the better choice of working inside doing housework. The past history of America has tied into what’s occurring today. If you are light skinned you are better than those who are dark skinned. Different  pigmentations.

Media has played a vital role in shaping people’s perception of many thing including politics and religion. What the media displays to the public can affect the way people treat others and themselves. The media also affects African American culture. The media makes us responsible for the idea that light skin is preferred over dark skin. An example of this is in advertising where girls who are dark skinned are used for high fashion, they aren’t favored in commercial ads. According to Hall, Russell, and Wilson, “…when it comes to promoting everyday products, light-skinned models are still the rule…many advertisers doubt that any dark skinned Black woman, no matter how beautiful, can effectively sell their products.”  Being light skin would be ideal rather than being dark skin. Therefore, media is a factor that promotes colorism and brings down people of a certain skin tone.

As an effect of the colorism that exists, people are ashamed of their skin color. Preferring to be light skinned instead because society puts down being dark skinned. This creates a sense of insecurity within individuals. Being ashamed of your skin color is becoming common especially due to media influence. This feeling is present in dark girls today. They don’t embrace their skin color but instead try to exclude it. It can be found that this insecurity is instilled in girls at a young age also. “Dark Girls,” a documentary presented on OWN Sunday, explores colorism through the eyes of African-American women with deeper skin tones. In the documentary, a girl was shown a picture of five cartoon children standing side by side. These cartoons are all the same; the only difference was their skin color. When she was asked which child was pretty or smart the girl pointed to the lightest drawing and openly said that it was because the drawing was white. When asked who was ugly or dumb the girl pointed to the darkest drawing, saying that it was because the drawing was black.” It is evident that this belief of light skin being better than dark skin not only affects people, but younger children as well. Being light skin means you’re automatically the smarter, more beautiful person which sometimes isn’t the case. Dark skin girls face challenges of stereotypes due to ignorance.

It’s not hard to understand why dark skin girls would rather be light skin. Society has created this stigma that having a skin color that is darker is a negative thing. This problem has  been ongoing since slavery and still exists. Light skin is the skin color that is ideal and is accepted more. It has gotten to the point to which even children think that light skin is better than other skin tones. These concepts continue to belittle dark skin girls. They are affected by media, not being able to be on commercial ads because they aren’t favorable. Black girls
shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are and should ignore the false ideas that light skin is better.

Opinionated: Argumentative Essays
S.T.A.R Academy
Edited by Ibi Zoboi, Writer-in-Residence

Ibi Zoboi's short stories have been anthologized in Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat, and The Caribbean Writer, among others. She’s received grants in Literature & Writing from the Brooklyn Arts Council and is a winner of the Speculative Literature Foundation Travel Award. Ibi is an MFA student in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.