Tia Williams, University of California, Davis
Lately I’ve been very skeptical towards the umbrella phrase “People of Color” that is so heavily used especially amongst wes educated folks in higher education who are self proclaimed activists, in our own right. But the problem I am having is regarding how inclusive these conversations and spaces that are about and for people of color, are….well…for people of color. Before I even go there, how do we define people of “Color”, in modern times? Is it a descriptor of everyone who is NOT of European descent, or white? Or is it just a blanket term used to create a collective identity for those who have been historically oppressed by white supremacy and the current power structure. Yet, even to that end, there are levels to oppression, so how much of a collective identity do “people of color” really share?
I’m not Sway, and I really don’t have all of the answers. However I’d like to pose another question.
Why is it that in contemporary times, people of darker, deeper skin tones and complexions get the shorter end of the stick across different racial groups, different cultures, different countries, and different continents?
While we can debate the origins of this global phenomenon and the factors that contribute to it until we turn blue and black in the face (figuratively of course), I would be remiss if I called it anything other than what it is, anti-Blackness. Whether you subscribe to the conspiracy theories against more melanin sufficient people or subconsciously permit societies’ tendency to thrust them down the ladder of social desirability, anti- Blackness is amongst us more often than not. From the disproportionate ratio of “light skin” versus “dark skin” lead roles (who are portrayed in a positive light) in the television and movie industry to the memes that perpetuate negative stereotypes, specifically about women of darker skin complexion, even more precisely, dark skin Black women.
There is a general color spectrum that I believe is very pronounced in the U.S. but exist probably everywhere which heavily informs the psyche of just about everyone who has been socialized by the education system or mainstream media in a given society. Unfortunately there is really no way of escaping it. Thus I’ve come to understand the color spectrum basically like this; to the far left you have “White” to the far right you have “Black”; good and bad respectively− sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. Yet despite popular belief, the whole idea of colorism is not exclusive to only Black people. Other racial groups experience colorism in relevant ways. However, because Black people represent one extreme of the color spectrum our position is one of duality. That is, yes we experience colorism amongst ourselves or within our racial group. At the very same time the negative connotations associated with our position on the spectrum, conflicts with other racial groups causing racial distancing.
So for Black students who occupy culturally “diverse and inclusive” spaces, especially for “students of color”, at their university institutions, it’s important to be aware of the dichotomy we face. Therefore when anti- Black sentiments are put forth confront them, name them, call them out. Decolonize our own minds, and encourage others to do the same. Begin identifying anti-Blackness in order to begin deconstructing it.