Light, bright, damn near white…..not quite.

Colorism is a form of intra racial discrimination that is a phenomenon, where human beings are accorded differing social and/or economic status and treatment based on skin color. Colorism can be found in the Americas within the African-American community, the Caribbean, India, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The term generally is applied to non-white peoples who discriminate against members of their own ethnic group.

Because those practicing it do not recognize this form of color bias as discriminatory, it goes on without discussion, protest, or opposition.

Colorism causes work place discrimination, creates tension around personal “preferences” and creates rifts in families. In February of 1988 director Spike Lee released School Daze, a 1988 musical-drama film, starring Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Based in part on Spike Lee’s experiences at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, it is a story about fraternity and sorority members clashing with other students at a historically black college during homecoming weekend. Throughout the film, the predominantly light-skinned African American women of the Gamma Rays, a women’s auxiliary to the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity, battle it out with a number of natural-coifed fellow co-eds, who are predominantly dark-skinned. Spike Lee had the actors stay in separate hotels during filming. The actors playing the “wannabes” had better accommodations than the ones playing the “jigaboos”, which contributed to the on-camera animosity between the two camps.

In School Daze, the method approach yielded strong results — the fight that occurs at the step show between Dap’s crew and the Gammas was not in the script; on the day of the shooting of the scene, the fight broke out, and Lee ordered that the cameras keep rolling.

Entertainment is often the medium chosen for public displays of the issue of intra-racism. In a 2006 interview with the blog Rock Candy, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, the original Deena Jones from Dreamgirls, speaks about the choice to cast singer Beyonce as the lead character.

R.C: How do you feel about Beyonce portraying the role you originally bought to life – Deena Jones?

SLR: It’s interesting, when Tom Eyen who is the creator, had this idea, he said that the Dreams, have to be three obviously black girls. Why? Because America will always go for that light, bright, long haired black girl because they will feel comfortable building her up, since they see themselves in her.
But for the obviously black girl, if she makes it, she deserves to be right there. Because they aren’t trying to push her, that’s why the Dreams had to be three obviously black girls.
So when they cast Beyonce in the role of Deena Jones. I said, “Wow, this is exactly what Tom Eyen said would happen.” They going to take to that light, bright blackish blonde girl because they feel comfortable with her. That’s the reality.

The phenomenon extends far beyond the African American race.  Be sure to listen to last week’s show….either online or through itunes.

Visit our online poll and leave us your opinion.

Links from the show:

Light, Bright, Damn Near White

School Daze

Sheryl Lee Ralph on Dreamgirls

Skin Color Bias is Growing as a Basis for Discrimination Claims (American Renaissance)

What the EEOC says about Race/Color Discrimination

Significant Color Discrimination Cases filed with the EEOC

Information about the ERACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment) at the EEOC

Blog – My Sistahs – How Colorism Affects Our Daily Lives

Blog – Tariq Nelson – The New ‘Passing’

Skin Deep Discrimination – ABC News

CNN Asia Skin Whitener Ads Labeled Racist


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