Unclaimed Treasures

The Hate From Within By Fannie Banks-Wells

She arrived home from school without the same buoyant look she usually had on her young face. As a fifteen year old child, my niece, normally exudes enthusiasm for the day behind her and the remaining day ahead. As a family we wondered why the “long face?”. We thought, could it have been a fight at school? Could it have been that the teenager who normally could be counted on to bring home A’s, brought home a B or C?;No, it was neither of those reasons. My niece that day had been told by an African American male classmate “you would be pretty if you weren’t so dark”. My niece said “I do not understand; his skin is as dark as mine?”.To hear this statement come from my brothers first child was disappointing because only decades before, I was told the same thing while attending High School.

My niece inherited the rich and striking Mahogany skin from her grandfather, who is my dad. From the day she was born, our family told her the truth, which is: “you are beautiful but not defined by that beauty”. One thing I knew for sure is that this child was born into a society that not only bases a females worth on her appearance but also denigrates dark skin.

The child who stated those words to my niece has no doubt been influenced by our history of enslavement. It is well documented that plantation owners, provided light-skinned enslaved people with more favorable chores, because they often were family members. My disappointment stems from the realization that since I was in high school, the African American community is still decades later, plagued by colorism. Out of all the “ism’s” such as racism, sexism, classism or singlism (discrimination against unmarried people). It is my view that colorism may be the worst. Colorism says that I do not approve of you because you remind me of me. Surprise and hurt come when discrimination arrives from within your own realm. Since we know that the people who kidnapped/enslaved our West African Ancestor’s, were inhumane at best, why have we adopted their school of thought? When we reject someone who has a similar appearance as our own, we are engaging in self-hate. Are our minds so constricted that we fail to see beauty that differs from European beauty standards? Fair skin came to be seen as an advantage on the plantations and it is still often viewed as an asset today “

Are our minds so constricted that we fail to see a beauty that differs from European beauty standards?” According to the Colombia University library(Columbia, n.d.), colorism mostly originates from the enslavement of black people in the Western Hemisphere and now is a global issue, with bleaching creams being so popular in parts of Asia and Africa. Bill Duke director of the 2011 documentary Dark Girls and its 2014 sequel, Light Girls was quoted saying “There is a beauty business that says God made a mistake”(lasentinel, 2015). He was talking about the now common practice of women in places such as Nigeria or India using bleaching creams on the whole body because they are convinced that their natural complexion is inferior. According to the NHS, (Wellcome, 2019)the possible side effects of using products that contain hydroquinone and/or mercury, can cause skin thinning revealing blood vessels, and may even cause kidney damage. BritishNigerian Actress Beverly Naya produced a documentary entitled “Skin” (CNN,2020). The documentary explores how colorism has affected Nigerians. According to the documentary “Skin.”, light-skinned women in the West African country are considered more beautiful than darker-skinned females. The documentary is now streaming on Netflix.

The following are some alarming statistics that are directly quoted from (nccj,n.d.):

“The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12% less time behind bars than their darker-darker-skinned counterparts”. The Root

“A 2006 University of Georgia study showed that employers prefer light-skinned black men to dark-skinned men, regardless of their qualifications”. The Inclusion Solution

“India’s skin lightening cream, Fair and Lovely, (Fair and Lovely promises an even tone of glowing skin with skin lightening) boasts 38 million users worldwide.” MS Magazine

“Dark-skinned Brazilians make up 63% of the poorest sectors of Brazil”. MS Magazine

The issue is so deeply embedded in our society that the only way things can begin to change, is for people in communities of color to openly discuss the colorism issue. When we see something or hear something that sounds like colorism, we can not afford to be silent. Silence means that you think comments made about darker complexions are okay. Just like most people are now aware that using the word “Nigger” is inappropriate, we must also teach our society that colorism is unacceptable. Whether it is a co-worker, a casual acquaintance, or a family member, we must say something like “I wonder if you know your words have an impact”. The adult that makes a statement to a thirteen-year-old African American brown-skinned youth may not realize the hurt they may have caused when they state “oh your so dark” or don’t stay out in the sun too long”. Speaking up must be done especially for the mental health of our dark-skinned youth going forward. Let’s love ourselves and our children enough to call attention to this hurtful practice of excluding some based on color. As a person that came from a multi-cultural background I have learned that when it comes to skin colors, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.


Anekwe, O. (2014). Global Colorism: An Ethical Issue and Challenge in Bioethics. Voices in Bioethics, 1. https://doi.org/10.7916/vib.v1i.6470

Dr. Wardlaw, Valerie, (2015, May 28), Bill Duke’s Dark Girls and Light Girls: Healing Has Begun, Los Angeles Sentinel, https://lasentinel.net/bill-duke-s-dark-girls-and-light-girls-healing-has-begun.html

Colorism,(n.d.), National Conference for Community and Justice, https://www.nccj.org/colorism-0

Salaudeen, Aisha, (2020, July 3), British-Nigerian actress shines a light on colorism in Netflix documentary, cnn,https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/03/africa/colorism-documentary-africa/index.html

Adamu, Ngunan, (2019, April 4), When skin bleaching goes wrong, wellcomecollection,https:// wellcomecollection.org/articles/XJ3y1BAAAJwJXE7c

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