RACISM | COLORISM | BLACK LIVES MATTER
Why is Colorism Still an Issue?
As the US and the world grapples with issues of racial justice, colorism — discrimination by skin shade — has also been in the spotlight. It’s a phenomenon I wrote about some time back in Exploring Shadeism. I looked at this mainly in the Barbadian and Caribbean context, and also did questionnaire research and interviews to find out about people’s lived experience of it. The following snippets give a flavor of the book:
In Western metropolitan centers where Black people are a minority within the population, they are often seen as one undifferentiated mass. Paul Gilroy asserts that “British racism has generated turbulent economic, ideological, and political forces that have seemed to act upon the people they oppressed by concentrating their cultural identities into a single powerful configuration.”
In other words, in the face of white racism, Black people of varying hues and national backgrounds have banded together to take on a single ‘Black’ identity. Indeed, the term ‘Black’ has become a political designation that includes minority groups of different ethnicities.
Looking from the outside and judging from Western representations on TV ads and in other media, the Caribbean is also seen as a homogenous mass — a tropical paradise peopled by smiling natives unified in their desire to give tourists the holiday of a lifetime. But the reality could not be further from the truth.
Historically, a divide and rule policy was used to keep the inhabitants of the different islands from forging close links and being inclined to foment revolution. The legacy of that can still be seen today in the string of failed attempts at unity that have been part of the Caribbean scene since independence in the 1960s to 1980s. Caribbean nation states generally cling steadfastly to their national identities in defiance of economic logic.