What is Shadeism?


Shadeism is defined as the discrimination against an individual on the basis of their skin tone. If history is a true indicator, one has to look at the days of slavery. A prime example of this would be the division of those who were light skinned and those who were dark skinned. The lighter toned people were considered to be far more beautiful than that of their darker counter parts. As a result, the lighter skinned people either worked closer to or inside the house. On the other hand, those who were darker, worked in the field and unlike their counterparts, had to sleep in shacks on plantation grounds.

Personally, I think the days of history has determined how we view society. As a person of a darker complexion, it tends to be harder for me to find jobs and other opportunities. Just based on looks, people already see me as a thug or a troublemaker. When in fact, I’m already a college graduate working on my second degree. The stereotypes that comes along with not only being of a darker complexion, but black in general are insurmountable. Which raises the question, is there really a difference?

In a vice.com article by Ebony-Renee Baker, Matt, a 28-year-old man of Jamaican and Portuguese descent said, “When I was younger, I was told by adults thank God you’re light skinned. However, as I began dating, I noticed that I was fetishized and exoticized. However, there are those that believe because I am light skinned that I can’t claim my blackness because I’m half white.” The most interesting thing about this article is that it not only touches on the side of those who are of a lighter complexion, but it also takes an international twist. Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country, sells products that literally brightens a person’s skin tone.

In terms of beauty, those of a lighter complexion were always placed above those that were darker. The most famous example out there doesn’t involve adults, but children. The infamous Clark Doll Experiment, further clarified how African-Americans viewed themselves. Using two different colored dolls, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, asked children which doll looked better. The doll of the lighter complexion was chosen unanimously. What makes this story sad, is that it showed America that our children are being told you have to look a certain way to be successful.

Shadeism has been used as a divider between people of color for centuries. From the development of the Far East, to the Western expansion, to modern times, the war between different shades seems to be endless. Or is it? With the constant evolution of human intellect and movements of empowerment, the “war” is seemingly coming to an end. As an African-American man of a darker complexion, I have been overlooked and looked down upon by everyone imaginable. However, that doesn’t give me the right to be upset, it only gives me the right to prove people wrong. In the end, does a person’s skin tone make them more or less beautiful? Does it make them more or less intelligent? If not, why are we, the human race, putting so much emphasis on it?