Accurate & Diverse Portrayals of Dark Skin POC Improved My Awareness of Colourism

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Although it’s necessary to read, listen and watch content that will educate you on colourism. In my experience, I’ve learnt that if I didn’t seek out an accurate representation of dark skin Brown and Black people, my understanding of colourism would’ve lacked nuance.

And here’s why…

Texturism and Featurism

Texturism – This form of discrimination impacts people of colour (POC) with curly, coily and kinky curl patterns. The people who face the brunt of texturism tend to be those with type 4C hair as this curl pattern deviates the most from straight hair. Texturism may operate differently in different POC communities. For example, a non-Black Asian person with loose curls will not benefit from texturism in their community as a large amount of Asians have straight hair which is seen as more desirable. However, if curly-haired Asians were in a predominantly Black country (i.e Nigeria), they would benefit from texturism as their curls will be looser than many Black people who naturally have coily or kinky hair.

Featurism – The preferential treatment of people whose facial features align with a society’s beauty standards. As white supremacy is a global issue many countries’ beauty standards are Eurocentric. Therefore any POC with a slender nose, slender lips, double eyelids, and light coloured eyes will experience preferential treatment over POC who don’t possess these features.

In regards to texturism and featurism within Black communities, my understanding of these concepts was flawed. I used to believe that dark skin Black people didn’t benefit from texturism, featurism and colourism, whereas light skin Black people benefited from all three. This idea occurred due to narrow portrayals of Black people in the media. In regards to colourism, dark skin Black people do not benefit from this oppression, however when it comes to featurism and texturism it isn’t that simple.

In reality, Black people possess a range of features; you can come across dark skin Black people with type 3 hair. Equally, there are light skin and medium-tone Black people with type 4 hair, especially 4C hair. Based on this fact, it means there are dark skin Black people who benefit from texturism. The same can be said for featurism as there are dark skin Black people with slender noses and lips. And light skin plus medium-tone Black people with thicker lips and wider noses.

The difference in features produces different experiences; Black people with looser curls, slender lips and noses are seen as more attractive. Especially light skin Black people as they benefit from these oppressions plus colourism. Dark skin Black people who benefit from texturism and featurism are more likely to get opportunities and are treated with more respect than dark skin Black people who don’t.

Dark Skin Mixed-Race People Exist

Expanding my representation of dark skin POC led me to realise that dark skin mixed-race people exist. Upon learning this, it made me realise that we rarely see them in the media. And that dark skin mixed-race Black people are often erased from the online conversations involving Black mixed-race people and colourism.

This occurs due to the hyper-visibility of lighter-skinned mixed-race people in the media. This then leads to there not being much representation of dark-skinned mixed-race characters in film or TV. As well as darker-skinned mixed raced people having less of a chance of being offered a platform where they can discuss their experiences of being multi-racial.

Moreover, the lack of representation also perpetuates the narrative that only lighter skin POC can be multi-racial. As well as the narrative that mixed-race people have a white biological parent. As most of the interracial families, we see in film/TV include a Black or Brown parent + a White parent.

For me personally, recognising the existence of dark skin mixed-race people, allowed me to acknowledge that certain narratives are false. For example, the narrative that all mixed-race Black people benefit from colourism, texturism and featurism. I now know this not to be true as we have dark skin Black people who are mixed-raced e.g the singer H.E.R. Plus there are mixed-race Black people who have wider noses and lips as well as type 4 Hair.

I also believed in the assumption that mixed-race Black people and Black people have a separate set of experiences. However, with the acknowledgement of darker-skinned mixed-raced people (plus those with wider facial features and type 4 hair), I now also acknowledge that there are experiences we both have in common. In this case, the perfect example is colourism. A dark skin mixed-race Black person will have a very similar experience to a dark skin Black person when experiencing this oppression. And will not necessarily benefit from the same things a lighter mixed-raced Black person does.

Dark Skin Non-Black POC and Racial Ambiguity

I used to believe that Black people were the only POC who could be dark-skinned. And even though this is not true, I can see why I had this belief. As there is a lack of representation of dark skin Brown people in the media globally.

Various Asian film industries are drenched with issues surrounding colourism. I enjoy watching K-Dramas but their lack of dark skin Korean actors and actresses are very apparent. Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world. The films they produce have a huge social impact on their audiences. But with that being said they, unfortunately, do not use their large platform to break down ingrained negative beliefs.

Bollywood has had a long history of colourism in its films (which is also heavily linked to casteism). Dark skin actors are rarely portrayed and if they are represented, their depiction is almost always negative (playing the villain and never the love interest). They are also known for their big musical numbers and often the soundtrack is the key to making a film a huge success. Unfortunately, the lyrics of Bollywood songs often promote the beauty of fair skin and they recently received backlash for the following lyrics “When you dance, watching you, oh fair-skinned girl, Beyoncé will be ashamed.” The lyric was removed from the film but this furthermore highlighted the colourism of Bollywood.

Many lighter-skinned Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra showed their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement but have also been the face of skin lightening products (which represent about 50% of India’s entire skincare market, with estimates of Its worth varying between $US 450–535 million)

Latin-American film industries are also known for their poor portrayals of darker skin Latinx people. The lack of accurate and fair representation of darker skin Black and Brown Latin Americans is STILL an ongoing issue today.

Learning that dark skin non-Black POC exist, led me to comprehend that colourism is a problem in all POC communities. It has helped me understand that dark skin POC go through similar colourist issues such as lack of media representation, bullying, low self-esteem etc.

Recognising the existence of dark skin non-Black POC also led me to question my idea of racial ambiguity as I used to associate racial ambiguity only with fairer-skinned POC. Even though the perception of dark skin varies in different POC communities. There are dark skin Brown people who look very similar to dark skin Black people. As dark skin and curly hair are not exclusively Black features. Its worth noting that race is a social construct and certain genetic features don’t belong to one racial group.

Creating Dark Hues Magazine has given me the tools to diversify my social media feeds. And has taught me that there are issues that overlap in various POC communities. And by learning more about the nuances, we create much more understanding amongst one another.

So overall, accurate representation of marginalised people is a good form of education. As it helps you to acknowledge that certain demographics of people exist. Plus it allows you to develop your understanding of how different oppressions work. As well as how these oppressions impact various marginalised groups.

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Chizoba Itabor is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Dark Hues Magazine. She is also a content creator who runs her own self-titled lifestyle blog. Be sure to check out her social media platforms on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and her own blog

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