How Colorism Shaped My Racial Identity

Topic: An Ethno Racial Essay

Copy of Copy of Jordan Head Shot

How Colorism Shaped My Racial Identity was written by Jordan Alexis. A third year undergraduate student at the University of North Texas pursuing a degree in psychology. She is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta chapter. A promising writer, and poet. Jordan is a volunteer and intern for the nonprofit community organization FASTell Girl Model2Mentor program. She also volunteered on the now Congressman Colin Allred  congressional campaign.

     I come from colorism. The only person in my family who wasn’t a colorist was my mother. Everyone else from the family tree is the epitome of slave mentality. At a young age I didn’t understand the whole lightskin, dark skin ordeal. However, my family made sure to prove Willie Lynch’s theory to be true. I was pinned against my cousin who was the same age as me as early as I could remember. Had we not grown up to separate ourselves from our family’s thinking we would still be against one another to this day. She was deemed the “pretty one” because she was light skinned. Grant it she’s beautiful, but had her skin tone been darker with the same exact features she would’ve been ugly in my family. You see, because I was “in between” skin tones I was light enough to be attractive but too dark to be beautiful. I had the privilege of not being made into a mockery like my older brother and being asked “where’d you go” when the lights turned off, or comments like “boy you “black black”. However, they made sure to make it appoint to uplift the lightskin family members while making the darker ones feel ugly. My experience with my skin tone outside of my extended family has been much different.

Colorism North of South

     In middle school I moved to Michigan and lived there for about 4 years. During that time I had my first experience of being at a predominantly white school, but still very diverse. By this age I was well aware of  stereotypes, microaggressions, and racism. While I dealt with microaggressions numerous times, being at this predominantly white institution, it was also the first time I didn’t feel ugly. Not because people were walking around calling me pretty or anything, but because for the first time I could just be human. I didn’t deal with family members making comments to me in the summer about how I need to stay out of the sun or black classmates coming up to me putting their arms against mine to see whose darker. Of course when I wore my big afro or recently got braids I had twelve million white girls asking if they could touch my hair. That was better than being made out to feel like I was less than for my skin complexion.



Colorism At Home

     As years passed I eventually moved back to Texas. Even though I didn’t like my extended family by a long shot, being in Michigan alone wasn’t the best. I miss “these people” as I refer to them now. This time my experience with my family was different. I was a little chubby as a kid but as I grew older and got into the gym the weight came off. So grant it my figure had a little to do with my family’s new found likeness of my appearance. However, the real reason I was “so pretty” now to them was because in Michigan from not being down in the Texas sun for the past 4 years I became about two to three shades lighter. They made it an appoint to let me know they were so glad I lost that weight and stayed out the sun “you’re beautiful now” is the remarks I received. Again it was never my features that made me ugly it was always my skin tone.


     Moving back to Texas not only was I reintroduced back to my colorist family, but now a colorist high school. While being at my new predominantly black and Hispanic school the microaggressions, racism, and stereotypes I experienced were alarmingly higher than the ones at the predominately white school. When I first transferred I followed my big brother around everywhere because I had not made any friends yet.  People assumed I was his girlfriend. Once I explained that we were brother and sister, I got swarmed with remarks of “how is that possible he likes so much darker than you”, “yall look nothing alike”, “damn you definitely got the pretty genes’ ‘. Mind you my brother and I look entirely too much alike. However, just like the experiences of colorism I had with my family it was never about our features, only our skin tone. 

Colorism Deep

As for myself, I identify as dark skin if the question is raised to me. However, because of the self hatred so many of the black students had within themselves I was told “no girl you brown skin, you got a pretty skin color”. As if dark skin is ugly. I didn’t find comfort in the fact that I was deemed pretty because I wasn’t too dark while my older brother was deemed ugly. I was livid. I spent my high school career being so pro black because of my experiences there. Even when I wore weaves I refused to wear any pattern that wasn’t big and curly. I loved the skin I was in and wanted other black students to as well. While they respected me I was still given “nicknames” like kunta kinte, and sista soldier. 


During high school I chose to date outside my race because of my experience with other races of men in contrast to black men. They saw me as beautiful while black men simply sexualized me or put another black woman down as their way of building me up. When Hispanic guys approached me to ask me on a date or for my number it was always you’re so pretty, “I love the way you carry yourself. You’re gorgeous or you’re beautiful.” Whereas the black guys, all I would hear was “damn you thick” “damn yo ass fat.” I was even told “man see you the thick I was telling them about. These “black” hoes up here say they thick and stomach be just as big. Like nah I want a girl like you no stomach and a whole lot of ass”. While they spoke to the black girls this way, I noticed early on the black guys didn’t have this same tone and disrespect towards the Hispanic girls at the school. Mind you, the way they talked to me didn’t even come close to the disrespect or vulgarity on how  they spoke to other black girls. While of course all the black guys were not like this it was too many of them who were. I would be lying if these experiences didn’t change my outlook on black men. However, I also understand their own self hatred and upbringings had a lot to do with why they were like that. 

A Black Woman

     While it saddens me to say, all my negative experiences with my racial identity have all 

strayed from black people. I had to learn from my mother and other races how beautiful black women are. Had I stayed in Texas my whole upbringing and never had been exposed to other cultures and upbringings I would have adapted those same toxic outlooks on my race. Of course this was my experience with my race, and I am aware that all black people are not like this. However, my experience with colorism has shaped my racial identity. Which is a woman who is black, proud to be black, and loves every ounce of melanin in her body, and lives for when other black people feel the same about being black.

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