3 Steps You Can Take to Combat Colorism

When you learn about the systematic inequalities we see in society, such as skin color discrimination, it almost feels like any actions done on your part would be negligible. This is merely how things have always been, what change could my possibly actions make? Well, there is always something that could be done, even if it only involves your friends or those within your family. With these 3 steps to combat colorism each day, you can know you’re making change, whether on a large scale or a smaller one.

1. Acknowledge what privilege you might have.

Privilege is a challenging conversation. When you possess it, it’s strange to notice the ways your life has indirectly been benefitting from the oppression of others. Still, it’s critical not only to notice it but think of how you can utilize it to support other people. This doesn’t imply that you should try to dominate the conversation, or steer it to a subject that affects your life more directly. Many times, acknowledging privilege simply involves listening to the struggles of people in your life, or outside of it, who have experienced this issue. 

2. Call colorism out if, and when, you see it.

In my opinion, this step is one of the most influential. Nothing stings more than to observe a friend pass over offensive jokes or judgments about darker-skinned people only because it isn’t insulting to them. This goes for different social inequalities as well. Admittedly, for a long time, I was the type to say nothing when I discerned something was offensive because confrontation can be awkward, or even intimidating. Now, I strive to get over that daunting feeling when speaking up for something I believe in because I recognize that it’s always the right thing to do. There is a significant distinction between inwardly knowing something is wrong and choosing to do nothing about it and outwardly taking the action to tell someone else not to continue their offensive actions. If no one is there to tell them what they said is wrong, people will continue their problematic behaviors. Don’t allow yourself to be uplifted at the expense of bringing other people down.

3. And finally, show your support for movies and TV shows that exhibit inclusive casting.

When I was growing up, and still today, the black women I always saw on television didn’t even mirror the diversity of skin tones I saw on women within my own family. If you were an outsider looking in at America, it could be easy to think that every black woman is light-skinned, because that’s the only black girl presented to the world. The representation we have now is indeed better than what our parents grew up with, but that doesn’t mean we should simply settle for diversity that isn’t genuinely representative of more people. With every new teen movie, writers and creators in Hollywood attempt to claim to be supporters of diversity, because they know it’s what teens advocate for. Not being accurately diverse is problematic, and in today’s “cancel culture” climate, people don’t want to risk negative press. Yet, only women who look like Yara Shahidi and Zendaya are cast in black female roles, and even then those roles are often tokenized or secondary to a white main character. Inclusive casting doesn’t signify solely casting Hollywood’s expectation of what a black girl should resemble, it also means progressing past that norm, displaying more variety of skin tones in media that depict the actual world we inhabit. When Black Panther came out, everyone showed out for the first blockbuster movie with an all-black cast. That made a statement, saying to those in Hollywood, this is what we want. Continuing to show that support, if you can, is an effective approach to work towards larger-scale changes in the society we live in.