Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shadeism- Unraveling the Color Barrier

With Martin Luther King's birthday around the corner it is especially difficult avoiding the topic of race these days. Everywhere I turn the issue rears its controversial head as the underground tone of America rumbles along with discontent, frustration and masked hypocrisy.

Its noise is present at the office water cooler discussed by those bemused or clueless, it is loudly pronounced on the trains by those who seek to attract attention and cause reaction, it cackles on various news programs with talk of an Administration led by a "foreign and exotic" president (to say it mildly), whose 'Kenyan' ass should be slapped silly according to certain radio personalities, and is also displayed by Tea Party activists carrying misspelled signs.

And yet... hidden underneath those obvious crimes of reason, there lies an insidious form of racism born and bred within those who seek to decry it. This filmmaker has named it 'shadeism.'

From the creator:

"This documentary short is an introduction to the issue of shadeism, the discrimination that exists between the lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community. This documentary short looks specifically at how it affects young wom[e]n within the African, Caribbean, and South Asian diasporas. Through the eyes and words of 5 young wom[e]n and 1 little girl - all females of colour - the film takes us into the thoughts and experiences of each. Overall, 'Shadeism' explores where shadeism comes from, how it directly affects us as wom[e]n of colour, and ultimately, begins to explore how we can move forward through dialogue and discussion. '

I admit, I can relate very well to the experiences of these young women, having grown up with a sister who was, and is several shades lighter than I. The unveiled reactions of others outside of my home affected me greatly as a child when they differentiated us merely by our skin color. She elicited many "oohs" and "aahs" as they fawned over her skin and hair, whereas my dimples were the only source of default admiration. I could always see the hesitation and pitiful query within their eyes- "Oh pity she didn't come out as light skinned as she..." Children see, absorb and understand more than we adults know or seemingly care to remember.

Why do we do this to ourselves and our children? Isn't there enough to battle against already?

Let's stop this now and cut the crap out.

Share your thoughts.


  1. Can't tell you how disheartening this video was. I knew we had a "shade problem" in the US, but did not have a clue that it was world-wide. Watching the 4 year old Tamil girl - who was darling - describe herself as too dark just broke my heart.

    Now, what do we do about it?

    Every young woman in that piece was lovely. How do we instill self confidence, self acceptance and pride and most of all do away with valuing first by shade? I am really discouraged to learn what a huge barrier this is for so many valuable women.

  2. Thank you for your input Webb. I think its pretty easy really, we need to stop the cycle. Parents who have experienced this, who are aware of it need to not promote it. Children are not born distinguishing by race or color. They are taught. Who teaches them? Their parents. I know we can't control the opinions outside of the household, and of those our children may be exposed to, but we need to (as parents) lay a strong foundation for them to be strong and confident in the face of it.

  3. I haven't watched the video(sound card doesn't work) but this problem makes me want to cry. I never experienced it since I'm in the middle and my darker friends either won't talk about it or it hasn't happened.

    I can see it being a bigger problem today than when I was in school. Compassion for others isn't being taught. Neither is self love.

    And you're right. Kids are taught this. But what do you expect when mom is 14, grandmom is 30 and great grandmom is 45? It becomes a cycle.

  4. @Adrienne- You've made a very insightful point and I think that one of the biggest problems with most of our youth today, regardless of the race, is that they seem to have no compassion or empathy. Thanks for your input!



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