Most people understand the power dynamics concerning racism but not colourism. The unfortunate fact is that colonialism established a caste system, and now, even in 2021, the colourism experience is deeply nuanced. The colonial masters imprinted “white = good, black = bad” on us in so many ways and, it translates in numerous aspects of post-colonial Africa and Nigeria especially.
Proximity to whiteness; no matter how small, gives certain privileges compared to the treatment of darker-skinned people. In this same vein, this singular fact is also nuanced in that the lightness praised in women; revered as delicate and beautiful; is demonised in men. I’m sure we’ve all seen the light-skinned men jokes. At the same time, dark skin is fetishised in darker men and the same people who fetishise these dark men still hold stereotypical notions about them and are racist towards them. Light-skinned women are also fetishised and being black, are subject to racism regardless of how ambiguously black they are; an equitable distribution of oppression.
Now, to dark-skinned women who suffer the most of the colourism. Dark skin in women is deemed masculine and unattractive by society. This notion is held not only by white people but by black people as well. Women like Serena Williams, Meghan Thee Stallion, Ciara have also experienced whelming amounts of misogynoir as well as colourism. Dark skinned women are called ugly and masculine even among black people and, this is how, via colourism, we emulate the hate of our oppressors.
There is an obsession (bordering on eugenics) with mixed-race children. People deliberately seek out black partners with features they deem desirable to breed children that look a certain way. Curly hair but never 4C; dark but never past the tone of milky coffee. This is primarily a dynamic between black men and white women and sometimes even among black people in light-skinned/dark-skinned relationships. This act of attempting to pick and choose which characteristically black traits you want your children to have is deeply anti-black and colourist.
In recent times, there is face-value appreciation for dark-skinned women in mainstream media when in actuality, there is little or no change to the general disposition on colourism. Make-up artists refuse to do your makeup or never get it quite right even though it’s flawless on light-skinned customers, dark-skinned models considered for cloth modelling jobs but not face modelling jobs. In movies, you see the absence of representation of dark-skinned black women in leading roles.
Conversations on colourism among black people need to happen because many black people continue to embody the divisive dogma inspired by racist exploitation. It is common to see black men and light-skinned women deny the existence of colourism. There is a need to unlearn the influences of our oppressors in our perception of ourselves.