COLUMN: Black women are still underappreciated in modern society—the sad reality of colorism.
In a society where racial justice is finally taking its course, Black women still face unprecedented amounts of colorism and underrepresentation in the media and beauty standards.
Sep. 10, 2020
Faith Brown is a freshman psychology major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about introspective takes on modern society for The Maneater.
Think about some cult-classic or blockbuster films. Who’s depicted as the pretty girl? How are the Black girls, if there are any in that film, represented? Chances are the answers to those questions are disappointing. It’s been an issue since the beginning of time that Black women are depicted in degrading or misrepresentative ways that are of the not representative Black female population.
In the beauty industry, dark-skinned Black women are virtually shunned in favor of those with lighter skin. Hair types of Black women are often not seen in afro or coily textures, but rather just in long spiral curls. Black women have to go to special stores to find products that suit our hair. We have to scour makeup isles to find products that come close to matching our skin, only to find out it’s too light or sometimes even orange. Brands like Tarte, Beauty Blender and YSL have claimed to be inclusive with their beauty products, only to provide two to three laughable attempts at matching Black skin tones. It’s almost as if society doesn’t want people to know that more than one color or hair type of Black women walk this earth.
It seems nowadays the beauty industry is walking backward in the effort to normalize Black hair and Black women of all shades. When Black women wear their hair in its natural states we have to deal with our hair being called “unkempt” and are sometimes told we can’t wear our hair a certain way because it’s “unprofessional”.
What are they considering professional? Straight hair. The beauty industry and modern society seem to want Black women to simply be brown colored versions of white women. When we straighten our hair we’re told we’re beautiful by other people. When we leave our hair in afro textures we’re told to “do something with it”.
This is where the appalling double standard in the beauty industry comes into play. If we wear our hair naturally, people say it’s messy. When we wear it in “protective styles” others want to tell us we “aren’t being true to ourselves.” It is the absolute bare minimum that Black women demand to be seen as someone other than a walking hairstyle with a stereotyped accent, and yet we cannot have this.
Let’s talk about Black women’s portrayal in the media. This is a battle that will likely go on for centuries. Hollywood is still very much rooted in colorism. In almost every mainstream movie where a Black woman is present, she is usually of lighter skin with “perfect” bouncy curls. While there is nothing wrong with that by any means (remember all Black is beautiful), the lack of representation on the behalf of other types of Black women is still heavily present. When Black women of darker skin are shown in movies they are often stereotyped by prejudice standards and made into a mockery. In shows Black-ish and Grown-ish, Hollywood tries to make a point about the apparent colorism in the media while shamelessly partaking in it themselves.
In movies like X-men and Nina, dark-skinned Black characters were casted by those with lighter skin, as if available dark-skinned actresses just do not exist. In the movie “Nina”, for example, Zoe Saldana portrays the female jazz legend Nina Simone. Saldana, who is of mixed race and a lighter skin, was made to appear darker with makeup instead of casting a dark-skinned actress. While BET acts as the eternal plug for the appreciation of Black women in entertainment, there is still a need for Black women to be given a proper and fair spotlight in mainstream Hollywood.
How many times has there been an interracial relationship, Black-and-white friendship, or a plain Black family shown in “typical” Hollywood films? If some instances come to mind, now think about how many of those Black people (Black women specifically) were darker-skinned? I can bet $50 if that movie wasn’t found on BET or if it wasn’t Black Panther, the Black cast was comprised of mostly light-skinned Black women. This specific case of colorism in Hollywood is not a new issue. Dark skinned Black women have been marginalized for their looks for centuries. It’s nauseating how darker-skinned women are considered “ugly” or as some absolute lost souls call them “burnt.”.
All Black is beautiful. Hollywood and the media are more than okay with feeding the public the idea that a Black woman who does not have the same skin tone or hair as Zendaya or Devyn Winkler should not be given the light of day. There are people in this world that say they love all types of women and then they can only think of two Black women they’re attracted to. Those two Black women have usually been Zendaya and the mystical Black woman named “uhhh.”
The number of times Black women have heard they are “pretty for a Black girl” or someone wouldn’t date them because that person “isn’t into Black girls” is alarming. The question of “would they date a Black girl” is also something Black women have to actually think about when they date outside their race. Does anyone else think it’s a little suspicious that someone isn’t attracted to an entire race of women? It is highly suspicious and cannot be attributed to having a “preference” as some people would pull as an excuse. It is simply racism.
Black women are beautiful. This should not have to be written down, spoken or argued. It should be common sense. It’s an irrefutable fact of life. We want to be Black in peace. Black women have been marginalized and misrepresented for far too long and we will not stand for it any longer. The show must be stopped and the narrative must be changed.
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Edited by Sofi Zeman | email@example.com