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As a youth with no real understanding of “colorism” – – I felt confusion, shame, and pain around my skin color and the story it told.
Look at a photo of my extended family, and you will see skin tones as broad and diverse as the Black community and the African Diaspora itself.
In my light skin and middle class status, and even in the way I spoke, I represented whiteness – the oppressor.
Far from being the victim I had believed myself to be as a child, over time, I became starkly aware of the privilege I carried.
We are bound, like many other Black families, by the shared ancestral pains of slavery, separated kin, sexual assault by white slave masters, and the pervasive, damaging impacts of racism.
There is no denying the impact this had on me – I had deeply hurt feelings.
But I also still, regardless of my hurt, had access and privilege that my peers did not because of the systemic oppression they experienced.
Photoshopped images in which the model’s skin has been lightened are commonplace.
All of these well-known historical and modern-day examples send the same message: They reward and value light skin and associations of whiteness and dehumanize, oppress, and silence the lives of people of color of deeper shades.
I know how the police would have responded to this call had it involved two of my darker skinned brothers. I have seen them stopped for no reason aside from their complexion, questioned with their backs against the wall and their hands up.