Internalized Racism in the Black Community: Dark Skin vs. Light Skin

Internalized Racism in the Black Community: Dark Skin vs Light Skin

We all know racism still lives in this country. But what we probably don’t know is that internalized racism still very much exists today, too. I could not believe what I heard this past Sunday. I was catching up with a friend. He was explaining to me how he wanted to get his life back on track, and how he was going to focus on himself instead of chasing after girls all the time. After I asked him how his recent relationship was going he continued to say that they broke up because she was a good girl with a good head on her shoulders. Who breaks up with someone because they’re smart and takes advantage of the great opportunities presented to them? Anyway, he continued to say, “Plus, she was dark skin and I don’t really do those. She’s a headache.” With a shocked and confused look on my face I proceeded to say, “What do you mean by that? What’s wrong with dark skin girls?” He said, “I just don’t like chocolate girls they aren’t appealing to me.” I held my chest appalled at what was just said. With an offended look on my face he asks me, “Why are you offended? You’re not dark skin.” Yes I know my friend, I am not dark skin. But I am going to use my voice to speak up for my dark skin sistas in situations like this. 

I did an extensive amount of research on what internalized racism and marginalization means. In my CAS 100 speech class, I wrote a speech on my findings of the severe effects of internalized racism in the African American community. Internalized racism is the discrimination within a race, whether by looks or skin color. Internalized oppression occurs among members of the same cultural group. People in the same group believe (often unconsciously) the misinformation and stereotypes that society communicates about other members of their group. People turn the oppression on one another, instead of addressing larger problems in society (The Community Toolbox, Axner 2015). That is exactly why I was offended when these comments about dark skin girls was said to me. I witness first hand what kind of treatment darker skinned people receive solely because of their skin tone. I also know how they can be affected by the way they are treated. Being brown skin is not an excuse to say racist comments to me about dark skin girls. I take full pride in my race. Therefore, I will not allow anyone to say negative comments about the black community, especially since we already deal with racism from those outside of our race. 

The dark skin girl that my friend mentioned was smart, talented, and had a lot of good things going for herself, yet he still couldn’t look past her skin tone. This is a serious problem. It just seems like nowadays people tend to forget how severe colorism is. Why do we put down our own people? Who taught us to do this other than society, media, and other “superior” races?

It is important that we know our history. We should educate ourselves on where we came from, what our ancestors endured for us, and who we are. So through my research, I learned that internalized racism all began with the William Lynch speech of 1712: The Making of a Slave. He delivered this speech on the James Bank River in Virginia. He addressed slave owners, and he taught them how to solve their problems by using his methods to put the black slaves against each other. His methods to divide our people only made them distrust each other and solely depend on the white slave owners. Here’s a couple excerpts from his speech: 

“I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves; and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust and envy for control purposes.”

“On top of my list is “AGE,” but it’s there only because it starts with an “a.” The second is “COLOR” or shade.”

“You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves.”

The effects of internalized racism on the black community is severe. With all the sources I gathered on this issue internalized racism affects the entire African American community by “self-segregating, poor academic performance, less earned money, poorer neighborhoods, and less school years completed” (Hunter in 2007 Sociology Compass journal).

This problem began with a seed implanted in our minds that light skin people were better, and it clearly affected the community. This division within our race is gradually breaking us apart. Society defines what beauty is, usually preferring light skin people because whiteness (or close to it) equates with “purity, modesty, innocence, and goodness.”

 What I want to do is spread awareness of this issue so we can change it together. Trying to change the perception of this skin tone will welcome a more diverse world into our popular culture. If we all can train ourselves to not see skin tone as a separation from our own race, we can make a difference.