By Jérémie A Kathalay
Posted on October 8, 2021
The Black community understands racism. They understand the way that people view the skin colour that they have on their own body. The damage that it has done has caused trauma that many Black people still need help with to this day. However, some of this structural damage is sometimes perpetrated by people within the Black community.
Within different Black cultural communities, certain things are different. Although Black people share similar skin tones, cultures and ways of living vary. Looking within Caribbean culture, there are Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Haitians and many other Caribbean islands who have different ways of life despite them being somewhat similar. The same variety is seen within African culture and heritage. So then, why is there such prejudice and racism within our own communities, if we know ourselves to be different but somewhat the same?
The portrayal of a certain group of people can be damaging to the perception of those targeted by mainstream media. Stereotypes have been a large factor in how many individuals within the Black community are seen by others. Even Black people themselves.
Many older generations within the Black community are immigrants that came from their homeland. Unknowingly to most, Western media has construed the way that other Black communities are represented within respective countries. A great example of this is how Black Americans/Canadians are portrayed in mainstream media, compared to how Africans or Caribbeans are represented. Though there is an understanding that a lot of these stereotypes are not accurate, many identify first with what they are taught and shown, before learning about it entirely. The hit 1988 movie, Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy is a prime example of how the media uses stereotypes to divide and differentiate the Black community. With these damaging and divisive narratives the mainstream media and mainstream news continue to perpetuate, people from different cultures look at the Black community in an unpleasant way. These negative and misinformed perceptions create self-hatred and division between the Black communities.
Racism, sexism and colourism are prevalent in the Black community. Black people come in different shades and are one of the most diverse communities in the world. However, that comes at a cost. With the way mainstream media created multiple images for the Black community, division was created to make Black people believe that some were better than others. When looking at colourism within the community, lighter shades have always been seen as better because of the eurocentric belief that whiteness is equivalent to good and blackness is equivalent to evil or unpure. In an article by Kaitlyn Greenbridge, she writes, “I started with the marriage market, and found out dark-skinned women are less likely to be married than lighter-skinned women. Colorism shows up in even starker ways: the difference in pay rates between darker-skinned and lighter-skinned men mirrors the differences in pay between whites and blacks. Darker-skinned women are given longer prison sentences than their light-skinned counterparts.” She goes on to explain that a lot of these divisions start at a young age and develop over time, truly affecting those who are of darker complexions. This type of trauma brings with it a lot of shame in how one perceives themselves and the others around them, creating hatred for themselves and for those that are perceived to be better or worse. These eurocentric beliefs are what create the division between the Black community. As Black people come in different shades and colours, it can be difficult to relate to one another when the media is portraying that our own people, despite us being the same, are somewhat better because of their lighter skin.
The Black community is not completely to blame for these internal divisions whether it’s due to culture or complexion. If it had not been for the racial conditioning and white supremacy of the Western world, this issue may not have been as prevalent today. Understanding how darker complexions are not seen as the ideal due to certain stereotypes and colourism, divisions within the Black community are created as people try to associate themselves with eurocentric norms and beliefs as seen in Greenbridge’s study where light-skinned Black women were more likely to be married than dark-skinned black women. There are even instances when looking at marrying or finding a partner, Black people may look for someone of a lighter complexion, to not have to worry about having darker-skinned children. This is just one of the many ways that racism manifests itself today and continues to create divides within members of the Black community. These are the types of issues that come along with the trauma that the Black community must face, not only outside of the community but inside it as well.
The Black community needs to continue to address this issue and make changes in the way that Black people view one another, as that is especially important for our advancement as a race. Before the community can have other people accept them, they must first accept one another, no matter the culture they are from or the shade of their skin. As there continues to be awareness brought to the issue of colourism within the Black community, more can be done to prevent such mindset and behaviours from developing, especially within the younger generation, as they are the ones who will maintain change once the older generations have passed. As members of the Black community, we must continue to focus on the things that we have in common and share with one another instead of the things that divide us. After all, we are stronger when we are together.