Psychology of Racism


"If you\'re White you\'re alright, if you\'re brown, stick around, if you\'re Black, stay back."

You may not have ever heard that old saying, but many believe the feeling behind it is still as popular as the rhyme was generations ago; positive character traits are associated with light skin, while negative attributes and problems are connected to darker skin color.

Many people believe that African Americans receive a great amount of discrimination from Caucasian Americans. Although this is true, there is a growing problem within the African-American community itself. That problem is lighter-colored vs. darker-colored. There is a mind-set that light is closest to white so it must be right.

I was one of the many African Americans who have been led astray to think that black-on-black racism was OK. For many now it is the media. The media play such a big role in differentiating between the darker-skinned people and the lighter-skinned people. I was watching a TV show one day and the show was about being against your own race. There was an African-American lady on the show and she was just going on and on about how ugly darker-skinned people were and how she is so blessed to be light-skinned. It sickened me to see a grown lady talking about this black-on-black racism. However, I could not blame her. Later she explained that when she was younger, her mother would tell her to stay away from the darker kids because they would mess up her reputation. She was led astray, just as other African Americans often are. The European standard of beauty -- keen features, light skin, and straight hair -- continues to dominate popular music videos, television shows and movies.

On TV and in magazines, you seldom see a dark-skinned black person. Our culture is still being led to believe that having lighter skin somehow makes you a better person. Black people with lighter skin get treated better; I believe this discrepancy stems from the days of slavery. This segregation of shades within the same race is a serious problem. Racism has always been an issue for the black community. In the past, some black social clubs and societies only allowed those who had light skin. Today, black children having white G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls with blond hair and blue eyes reinforce racism. It is also strengthened by the absence of dark-skinned black people on TV and in magazines. What happened to "Black is Beautiful"? The black race is made up of many shades, so how can anyone say one is better than another?

Many people complain about seeing primarily light-skinned black women in music videos. Almost all people I asked say the same answer: "It is messed up, but what can I do?" Most were angry about how dark-skinned black women are portrayed in music videos: "When they do show dark-skinned girls, they are all greased up.” These images of dark- and light-skinned black women affect people differently. However, it is clear that the absence of beautiful dark-skinned women and the flood of images of light-skinned women increase self-hatred and division. The self-hatred comes in many forms; when I was in High school, a black girl told me she only wanted to marry a white man so her children would have light skin and white features.

"Ah just couldn\'t see myself married to no black man. It\'s too many black folks already. We ought to lighten up the race."

— From Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

When you begin a book with a quotation like that, you\'re inviting trouble to come in, kick off its shoes and stay awhile. But that\'s Marita Golden\'s intention, in her article “Color Hurts”, published in the New York Times.

“There are so many words to describe African-Americans\' pernicious, persistent dirty little secret— colorism, color-conscious, color-struck, color complex. And then there are the more specific descriptive terms that separate Blacks and create castes, and cliques, and that are ultimately definitions not of color but of culturally defined beauty and ugliness and that can end up distributing everything from power, to wealth, to love. High yellow, high yalla, saffron, octoroon, quadroon, redbone, light brown, black as tar, coal, blue-veined, café au lait, pinkie, blue-black.” , Marita Golden, Don\'t Play