On Sept. 29, College Girls Rock Inc. (CGR) and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) of Georgia State hosted a discussion called “Shades of it All” on colorism in the African-American community. Approximately 67 people were attendance at the event, according to CGR Inc. Vice President Ravin Williams.
According to the Urban Dictionary, colorism is defined as “the discrimination of African-Americans by skin tone in their own community usually subconsciously done as most blacks don’t realize they’re doing it.”
In the discussion, Williams talked about her experience being a dark-skin woman. Growing up, she said she was made fun of because her skin tone was darker.She said discrimination against dark-skin women has seeped onto social media and showed several memes which joked about dark skin,light skin, and mixed African-American women and men. The memes represented stereotypes such as “Dark skin girls be like I’m mixed…with what charcoal?” or for the light skin female “Born with 800 unread text messages”.
“I felt as though Georgia State needed this event because colorism is such an important issue in the African American community and no one ever talks about it. With Georgia State being so diverse I felt it was the perfect platform to bring people of all races together to discuss a topic that not many people are not willing to talk about, and in many cases, not many people know that they are using negative colorism comments,” Williams said.
Lauren Smith, NCNW Vice President, gave a history lesson on Colorism and its effects on the African-American community.
In her presentation, Smith travelled back to times of slavery, when, she said, light-skin slaves were often given better treatment than darker skin slaves and from there on there has been a divide in the African-American community among dark-skin and light-skin black people. According to the testimonies of the participants, Williams and Smith, this type of separation has continued today as many black people still tend to separate themselves by skin tone whether on social media or in everyday life.
Smith said the purpose of the discussion was to draw attention to the issues of colorism in the African-American community, where it originated from and its impact on the African-American community.
“The Shades of it All” program was intended to focus on the issues of colorism within the African-American community,” she said. “We wanted to create an engaging conversation that combined the tongue-and-cheek aspect contributed by social media, the realistic experiences of everyday life, as well as the sociology & history behind colorism.”
Williams said another purpose of the discussion was to reveal and explain the roots of colorism.
“The purpose of the event was to shine a light on colorism and how African-Americans are affected by the issue through social media and their everyday life,” she said.
“I feel as though the attendees developed a more realistic concept of what colorism and how it has the ability to impact people on a micro & macro level. This program shed a light on a topic that is not frequently addressed. Now that the issue is on the table, it has become everyone’s duty to create a safe space for equality to thrive,” Smith said.
Maritza Pullum, a Georgia State student, said she found the discussion important because it addresses issues “already occurring in the black community”.
“It really opened my eyes a whole lot more to what dark-skinned, light-skinned, and mixed people of color go through. Hearing different stories and testimonies from others really helped me better understand what others go through, even if you haven’t been directly impacted yourself. I really hope CGR and NCNW host more events like this where we can really have an open discussion about issues in the black community and how we as college students can be the change,” she said.