Let’s talk about colorism. Colorism is the source of the many insecurities I work to heal and unlearn in the process of loving myself. I was a little girl when I experienced colorism for the first time, and I didn’t understand the long-term effects of what I’d internalized until I got older. Through colorism, I experienced body dysmorphia, a condition where one sees themselves differently than how they are perceived by others. My round, West-African like features and dark skin often, inevitably, put me in the face of crippling discrimination, that as a young girl conditioned me to wish I was anything but myself.
Can you imagine living in a world conditioned to reject the image you resemble? The white-supremacist lens was solidified when every attempt to instill Black inferiority, and every attempt to break the spirits of those who look like me, succeeded. Can you imagine the discord of wanting to love yourself through the historic weight of that of which fuels the white supremacist lens?
The stereotypes, the lies, the breakdown of Black familial structure, the discrimination and exclusion, the alteration of truth and suppressed history of Black power… The conditioning that I am not worthy enough by the grace of my skin has manifested in my life more than I feel happy to share, but this is my fight. Empowering melanated people who inherently look like me is my form of activism, because regardless of the white supremacist lens, and European societal expectations, we too, are beautiful.
I knew I was a victim of internalized colorism when my self esteem plummeted and I began isolating myself.
In social settings I experienced heightened anxiety, and often put the societal, American standard of beauty up on a pedestal. In work spaces I operated in a “perfectionist state-of-mind,” feeling that if I didn’t overproduce or overachieve, I would be rejected. I felt placed against Black women who were lighter than me, in terms of beauty and opportunity, as in my experience, these women were favored in social settings. I grew to believe I was unattractive, unlovable, and ultimately, inferior. But really, I was oppressed. Oppressed by the misinformation that appearance is tied to worth, and that by racial division and misguidance, I am devalued.
Colorism cuts deep. I think of it as a psychological disease. But the unlearning process is a necessary journey to not only love myself, but most importantly my community–because when I hate myself, I hate them too. After my mother had my little sister who is biracial, and she began noticing our family was darker than her, I realized how important conversations around self worth, self value, and self love can be with people who both look like, and look differently than you. It becomes an opportunity to pour into others and yourself. And you learn you are empowered to decide your value, and I say, I am rich just like the pigment of my skin.