With mankind said to have originated from equatorial Africa and scientific records confirming that humans originated from the Khuiland Great Lakes region seven million years ago (Bynum, Brown, King & Moore 2005), the various skin colors that we have come to know resulted from mass migration into other continents coupled with the changes in ecosystems over a million years ago. Skin pigmentation variation in Africa is reflective of natural selection, migration, and new pigmentation mutations. Colorism is not just an American issue but a global which is said to have existed long before colonialism. When you research the origins of colorism, several variations, some farfetched, range from Biblical context to the Slave practices within the Americas. It has roots in Indian, Roman, Greek and Judeo-Christian texts. Nonetheless, colorism when analyzed thoroughly is a tool used to maintain power and cause division among its subjects. The spread and practice of colonialism can be traced to European colonialism and white supremacy ideology. Willie Lynch of the Willie Lynch letters highlights the segregation of the black race on the basis of color as the most effective means of manipulation and control while displacing trust of each other among said race. Hence the reference of the House Negro (lighter skin, mixed race, mulattos due to being children of their slave owners) while the darker skinned (Field Negro) were relegated to manual labor in the Field. This color segregation system became a widely accepted and popular practice internationally to enslave other colonized people around the world thus maintaining the ever profitable transatlantic slave trade.
Colorism can be seen in European colonized countries. Paying particular interest to India’s caste system. The Upper Class consists mostly of those Indians with Aryan, European Invaders, ancestry of the North while the underprivileged, lower class are the darker skinned indigenous Indians of the South. In Latin and South America, light skin equates to power. The 2000 Human Genome Project found that there is no genetic difference between people of different skin colors with 99.99 percent of all humans sharing the same genetic code. Is it possible that Nell Irving Painter, author of the History of White People is right when he states that “race is an idea, not a fact?” That’s a different conversation for a different day. Stay tuned. Lighter skinned persons are not exempt from the negative impacts of colorism. The effects of the maltreatment of dark skinned persons results in the resentment and mistreatment of their lighter skinned counterparts. The sense of belonging or lack thereof to a particular race or group is an experience often shared by individuals of a mixed race.
How do we combat the practice of colorism and its effects? The education and promotion of skin color origins and variations as well as the debunking of unfounded beliefs any myths regarding skin color is necessary. The promotion of self-worth, human value, self-esteem and positive body images with focus on imagery and celebrations like that of the different Carnivals hosted in Caribbean cultures which highlight the diversity of skin color and its African influences need to be brought to the forefront. What we view, what we practice shapes our thought processes which manifests into our daily actions. It is important that we tackle this disease known as colorism which is a step in the direction of healing and resetting our standards of beauty and celebrating the multiplicity of the human race.