Defeating Colorism: Accountability

by Gabrielle Marie

Apparently, the below post has been going around social media for the past few days and I will admit, when I came across it, I stomped my foot! We usually like to keep things light and fun, but THIS, I just had to speak on!
As a woman who was bullied as a child (in my case, because of my dark skin-tone), I identified with this post so much! Being the victim of bullying and harassment (both verbally and physically) for most of my school years, usually by class mates much lighter in skin tone than I (not always though, that's another conversation), this post hit a soft spot. It became so problematic to the point where I even had to be transferred to another school once. Those years were the root of a lot of the self-esteem issues I had, and honestly, those issues still linger on a bit into my adulthood. I remember feeling so distraught and unattractive by the time I came home from school each day, it didn't really matter that my family assured me of otherwise; in my mind, something was wrong with me. Therefore, speaking from experience, I can say that having those experiences as a child do leave wounds that take a very long time to heal, and for some, they never really truly heal.

Parents and other family members really do need to be very careful with how they uplift their children when they are are being bullied for how they look. It's important to reassure them that they are beautiful, but not to make them that their beauty makes them BETTER, even when it may very well be the root of others jealously.

My mother used to tell me all the time that "she's just jealous of you because you're a pretty dark-skinned girl" (as if those two words being in the same sentence was such an anomaly, but that's another conversation). Of course I know that my mom meant well, and just wanted me to see and appreciate my beauty. However, if I had taken her words and applied them to every single altercation I had with someone with a lighter skin tone than mine, years later you'd have a grown woman truly believing that her skin tone makes her superior and that anyone who looks different from her is simply envious.

Sadly, as Kyla mentioned, this very thinking is one of the many roots of colorism (and some's denial of it).

However, the lingering pain from childhood experiences cannot be accepted as a valid excuse for ignorant behavior. As adults, when we find traces of prejudice in ourselves, we definitely do need to acknowledge why those prejudices are there, because acknowledging the experiences that caused them is the first step towards healing and change. However, we cannot stop there. Most importantly, we need to make sure that we don't allow those experiences to become excuses for ignorant and hurtful thinking and bad behavior towards others. At a certain age, we have to take accountability for our actions instead of justifying them with bad childhood experiences. We all have one or more negative experiences from our childhood that has helped shape who we are as adults today. However, growth is a necessary and constant process and there's nothing wrong with checking ourselves when needed. If we can all do the work to acknowledge our scars, heal from them and grow, we make for better parents and in turn, a better future for our children!

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