I am taking another sociology class and my group was assigned the topic of race. Like this class, we spoke about DuBois reading’s and the concept of double consciousness.  Basically, not only viewing themselves through their eyes but also viewing themselves through the eyes of others. He felt this sense of two-ness, as being an American, and then being an African American. We decided to take this concept to another level. Not only did we want to discuss the differences between blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians, but we wanted to show the racial hierarchies within the same race. As a result, I introduce you to the concept of shadeism. Shadeism, a legacy of slavery, is a form of skin tone bias that identifies groups and individuals on the basis of their degree of pigmentation. Basically, the inequalities faced by a person of the same ethnicity but a different shade of skin color. While searching about the topic of shadeism, I fumbled across a documentary made by students around our age.  Below I have posted the link to the video:



I was stunned to see that the four year old niece of the young lady shooting the documentary already realized that in today’s society light is considered better and beautiful than darker shades of skin color. She even goes on to say ” I need to come white”. She blatantly shows disgust when she answers that her skin color is brown. How is it possible that a 4 year old can already consider herself not beautiful because of her skin color? Towards the end of the video, you see the little girl putting on her shades and hat in order to protect herself from the sun. She knows that by being exposed to the sun, she will only get darker which is unacceptable in her culture. As I kept watching the video, I was shocked to see the unbelievable commercials advertising a skin lightening product called “fair and lovely”, which is very well-known in the Indian culture.  The commercial mainly promoted the idea that the lighter you were the better. At the end of the video, the woman who had under gone the lightening process gets the job she always wanted and moves to America. I couldn’t help and feel disgusted when they showed the stages of her lightening process. The commercial just infuriated me because it presented this idea of the inferiority of dark skinned people from light skinned.  I kept searching the commercials of the product “fair and lovely”, but while searching for this I found something else. I found an article entitled “Vaseline launches skin-whitening Facebook India app”. Interested from the title I kept reading, and this is what I found,

NEW DELHI — Skincare group Vaseline has introduced a skin-lightening application for Facebook in India, enabling users to make their skin whiter in their profile pictures.

The download is designed to promote Vaseline’s range of skin-lightening creams for men, a huge and fast-growing market driven by fashion and a cultural preference for fairer skin

I couldn’t believe the extent in to which this lightening concept was reaching. The unfortunate part is that the response towards the application and advertising for lightening products was pretty phenomenal. The media clearly adds to this idea that lighter is better and beautiful. If you notice stars like Vivica Fox, Beyonce, and other dark skinned women are lightened in magazines because light is believed to be better. Other celebrities like Sammy Sosa, Lil Kim, and  Vybz Cartel have actually used lightening skin products in order to fit this idea of “beauty”. Our society has constructed this idea that light is better, associating light with good things and dark with bad things. Do you believe that skin color affects how people are seen to others? including the people in their own race? Being darker than most of my family members, this topic hit close to home. Where my parents are from, skin color is usually associated with money. Usually the richer or well off individuals are those of light skin, light eyes and light hair. While those of darker skin color are considered to be middle class, and the darker you are the “poorer” you are. It’s difficult to break away from such stereotypes and bias when society is always pushing for that idea. And until we stop promoting that idea, it will be hard to change things. Regardless of my skin color being darker than most of family, I still consider myself hispanic and will always continue to identity myself as one.




3 responses

  1. lsaadia1 says:

    This post is extremely interesting to me, because i have never heard of the concept of shadeism before and it is hard to believe that it exits. I am surprised that the people of color described in the video feel the necessity to become more white, since lighter skin is viewed as more beautiful in their particular cultures. After watching the video i questioned whether the concept that light skin is more beautiful stem from whites? Or did it evolve within dark skin communities? I would assume that since people with darker skin tones have become more equally accepted over time, they would be more comfortable in their own skin (no pun intended), instead of changing their appearance to physically assimilate. But, this post suggests that this is not the case at all. To play devils advocate, it is interesting to point out this exact issue from the other side of the spectrum. Many whites use tanning salons, or the sun itself to darken their skin tones. Therefore, would one view a white person who goes to a tanning salon as wanting to be more black? Why is there a double standard when talking about whites and blacks in regards to their skin tones?

  2. jessvega says:

    I have been exposed to shadeism, however I never knew that there was an actual term for it. As I was saying in my post, I learned about this topic in my other sociology class. I wanted to post the video my group had created on the concept of shadeism however I was having trouble uploading it to the site. In that video, we interviewed students from Hunter asking them a few questions related to skin color. We interviewed two Dominican girls, one of a light complexion and the other of a darker one. It was surprising to see how different their stories were. The light skinned dominican felt that skin color was not an issue and that it didn’t affect how attractive she thought she was or how others viewed her. She believed that someone being uncomfortable in their skin color was more of a personal matter. However, the dark skinned dominican, felt the pressures of trying to fit in and change her appearance. To answer your question about if the concept light skin is more beautiful stemmed from whites, I am not too sure of this. That could be a contributing factor. In our video, we interviewed an young indian lady, she explained to us how the concept of light and dark was explained to her. She said that she grew up with stories including religious stories where light skinned individuals were associated with being good and evil characters were associated with being dark. She goes on to say that no one desires to be the bad guy or the evil one, instead they crave this light and goodness, which is why they consider lightening their skin. And it’s insane how you mentioned that now individuals would like tans. I was thinking about this last class when we were discussing prejudice and discrimination.

  3. This is so discouraging. I know of course that it is true, that this concept of white = good, black = bad exists, and is instilled in all aspects of our lives from the time we are children. What can be done to discourage this type of thinking in future generations? It begins at home, we have to stop conditioning our children as we ourselves were conditioned. Next we have to stop supporting, as consumers, companies that continue to advertise parallel to this black and white theory. Not just skin cream companies. Any company that rides the wave and associates it with their product.
    Thank you for posting this