By Jasmine Dean @ImTheReasonWhy
We've seen it many times and we've felt it many times. It has a name: Colorism.
Colorism describes the discrimination and rejection against those based on shades of skin tone within the same ethnic group. Colorism, a child of racism, is essentially the perpetuation of white supremacy. As white people and their whiteness are preferred, people of color with lighter skin are treated in higher regard than darker skinned people of color.
Recently, we’ve seen backlash at Kanye West, a man who is known doing everything controversially and unapologetically. In seasons 1-3, we’ve also seen his inclination toward "multiracial" models. In his most recent casting call for Yeezy Season 4, the Grammy-award winning rapper, producer, and genius explicitly stated he wanted "multiracial women only." Confused about the outrage?
Upon first glance at the ad, many Black women, in particular those who are not ethnically ambiguous (like me) felt slighted, offended and reluctant to support the artist and fashion designer behind the blatant perpetuation of colorism.
But what did he really mean? Mind you, Kanye West does not exist in a vacuum.
Maybe we’ve considered Kanye’s dating history. Opting to fetishize and uplift light skinned non-Black women of color who possess only the desirable elements of a Black woman’s natural body.
We are aware of his current marriage to Kim Kardashian, a member of a family that cherry picks Black aesthetics and culture, branding it as their own. Given his affinity for non-Black women who tote this Instagram-honey aesthetic it was not too far-fetched to think “multiracial women only” meant, “light-skinned mixed women only.”
Given the context one could easily understand our frustrations with being excluded and undermined, daily. Colorism is thrown in Black women's faces every day.
Praises for Black features on not-Black women, exaltations for fake backsides and large breasts on women of non-Black bodies. For Kanye, women are only beautiful if they are “light skinned girls” or “Kelly Rowlands.” In other words, if she happens to be dark, she must be exceptionally beautiful, with a small nose, exceptionally flawless skin, and “good hair.”
Or, she must be Teyana Taylor, oiled and glistening, body exposed, out and open, sexualized and dehumanized. Society constantly whispers to us, "you're only beautiful when you're presented this way."
Only a few special ones, as it's constantly made clear that too much darkness is much too unnecessary. A Lupita Nyong'o, a Kelly Rowland, that's enough.
Given the context you would surely understand a Black woman's initial feeling of being offended, no?
Kanye West rarely minces words. If he meant women of many shades, he would've said such. Since he rejected all white women who attended the casting call, he would've blatantly (as we know him well for doing) stated "no white women.”
Colorism shows itself in media, in society, in literature, in culture, and in language.
The tone used to express what he wanted - multiracial women ONLY - expressed and put in words what so many of us see and feel often, and completely disregarded the MANY dark-skinned women who are - indeed multiracial.
I am tired of being told to acknowledge the fact that Kanye West is "breaking down doors,” and “giving us opportunities” we wouldn’t otherwise have. I am not content to be thankful for the crumbs.
I am constantly made to feel like my body isn’t enough and when it is enough, it is too dark, too big, too Black. I am constantly made to feel that beauty can exist in darker skinned women as long as her features are exceptionally close to whiteness. I am tired of Black women being slathered in baby oil to be seen as beautiful.
Black is beautiful, in every way, every single day. We've come a long way in the battle against white supremacy. We have a long way to go in acknowledging and fighting against its offspring, colorism being one of them. Blackness should be appreciated in any form, in all women, with all features. Our discussions on these subjects need to be held with the intent to make progress, thanks to Kanye, we see how far we have to go. Kanye West is our generation’s self-proclaimed Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and Picasso. He has plenty of brilliance and space to rewrite the story, change the narrative, and impact the culture. For everyone’s benefit.
Jasmine Dean is a womanist for all women, particularly Black women and women of color. She strives to encourage, uplift and develop young teen and adult women. Her aim is to help all women and femmes realize potential and find their passion and purpose. Currently, she is a Cosmetology instructor. She has an undying passion for music, fashion, beauty and business. Jasmine is based in Columbus, OH. Connect with Jasmine on Twitter