Colorism

I recently watched several video clips on AOL’s Huffington Post, featuring segments from Oprah’s OWN network. The discussion centered on the Dark Girls documentary and how colorism influences the culture and, subsequently, how black women often relate to one another. Colorism is a cultural ideology which exalts the value of light skin.  Therefore, those with light skin often experience privilege on the basis of complexion, may be considered more attractive, or as current “doll test” experiments point out, may even be considered to be smarter or nicer. 

While this cultural phenomenon broadly impacts our society, it impacts women more dramatically.  A woman with light skin is automatically considered to be more beautiful, intelligent and more desirable than her darker counterpart. What we believe culturally can become ingrained individually, impacting our personal belief systems and actually becoming the foundation upon which we live and govern ourselves.  Even when they are erroneous, such belief systems establish the principles by which we consciously or unconsciously align our thinking processes.  Breaking free from erroneous systems requires that we make a conscious decision to identify and build upon accurate ones.

Even as Christian women who understand that we are created in the image of God and after his likeness, we have to give constant vigilance to our thinking about ourselves.  As women, God has graced us to carry and convey legacies forward, particularly as we instruct and equip our families.  We would do well, then, to ask ourselves some critical questions—what is the result of accepting colorism as a belief system?   How might accepting colorism as a belief system have impacted our estimation of ourselves and others?   How does colorism rob us of the security of which God assures us in his word? 

To begin, colorism keeps women from loving themselves unconditionally. It causes women to value another individual’s opinion above what they see in the mirror; in fact, it may even skew what they are able to see in the mirror. It causes women to compete instead of being supportive of one another.  And in creating competition, colorism causes us to disconnect, to be closed off and not appreciate each other just as we are.  Instead of celebrating our individual uniqueness, we attempt to look alike, dress alike and march to a cultural standard that affirms us only when we conform to an established standard of beauty. These are all rules created to keep us from loving and accepting ourselves.  This belief system results in our placing more value on our external appearance than our character.  It doesn’t make room for the beauty that lies within each woman. It doesn’t nurture the beauty that flows from our internal passion to fulfill the purpose for which we were created--the very reason for which we exist.  It refuses to celebrate our differences in skin tone, hair texture, or physical shape. Consequently, each of us must make a decision to accept or refute the colorism ideology as a belief system which governs our thoughts, actions and words. Why? Because otherwise, we are destroyed!

So what can we do to change things? First, I believe as women of God we must stop looking for answers and solutions outside of Kingdom solutions. In the Kingdom, our uniqueness is celebrated (1 Corinthians 12: 14, 27).  Each of us was created with the potential to function in an extraordinary way that is supportive and beneficial to others.  Therefore, we must write our own narrative and that starts with believing who God has called us to be. He created us to be women of strength who have the capacity to be effective, to be dynamic leaders, to be productive wherever we find ourselves, to be overcomers, not victims who fall on the sword of the culture. Second, we must gain self-awareness of the grace we carry and build upon it. It’s the management of our individual strengths that allows us to fulfill our purpose and influence the world.

In the Kingdom, your value and significance goes beyond your skin tone. It’s more than your hair color or the designer logo on your purse. The more you agree with God’s purpose for your life, the more beautiful, the more fulfilled the more valuable and significant you will understand yourself to be. 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10