Colorism. What is it? I had no idea myself until very recently. I figured race, sexuality, religion, and gender were all a person had to fear regarding prejudices. But what if I told you that the color of of your skin makes you smarter, more attractive, faster, stronger? What if I told you that skin tone makes you superior, more superior than someone with a different shade? These are all forms of colorism.
Colorism's true definition is, roughly, “discrimination based on skin color,” and is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color. Now, most people would assume "Hey, isn't that racism?" No, in fact, because most perpetrators and victims of colorism are usually part of the same race or ethnic background.
I've long heard the statement, "I'm Black/Latino, I can talk about other Blacks/Latinos" as a way to justify prejudice against others of the same race. You wouldn’t think that it's common (though I’ve heard the sentiment, I didn’t always believe it was a common thought or belief), but maybe it is. To see if this was at all common, I decided to conduct some research on the topic using a little something I call ‘Instagram’.
You wouldn't think Instagram would be a great source for research on colorism, but I run a moderately popular Instagram account, showcasing Latinx men of different races, ethnicities, and sexualities. So I decided, since I have control groups of race and gender, I could use my account to answer the questions I had regarding colorism. The questions I was aiming to answer were the following:
Who received more likes on average per picture, lighter or darker Latinx men?
Do the results reinforce the European Beauty Standard?
Based on the results, is my page suffering from colorism?
Now, answering the first question seemed like it would be easy. That is, “Just find out who has the most likes, then average them out among darker and lighter Latinx men!” But I had to take into account other variables such as the type of picture; was the guy shirtless, was it a risque picture, was he military, was he your average José? All of those variables factors into whether or not someone likes a picture. So to be sure I was finding out if color was indeed a reason one picture was being liked over, another I ran a few tests.
The first test was simple. I took the top 10 pictures on my page, and averaged out the likes between the lighter and darker Latinxs. Based on that information, my lighter Latinxs received about 110 more likes than the darker Latinx men.
In the second test I ran, I made sure I used non-military men and no shirtless pictures (just regular pictures or regular people). Similar to the first test, I averaged out the likes between lighter and darker Latinxs. I found that lighter Latinx men were coming in at 91 likes more than the darker men.
It started to seem obvious what the answer to the question was, but I wanted one more test. In the last test, I took all of my posts of the year 2017, and averaged them out. The result? Lighter Latinx men were coming in at 127 likes more than darker Latinx men. The results are clear, and thus we have the answer to our first question: Lighter skinned Latinx men do, in fact, receive more likes per picture.
With that question answered, the second one comes into mind: Do the results reinforce the European Beauty Standard (EBS)? The EBS is a standard by which European or caucasian features are highly desired and considered more attractive. Based on my results, it did seem that way. My lighter skinned Latinxs were more liked than any of those Latinx men with darker skin. Seeing that the EBS is being enforced on my page, it made answering the last question regretfully easier.
And the answer is a clear, yes: my page is suffering from colorism.
However it is not just my page that is suffering. This is proof that Latinx culture, as a whole, is suffering from this form of prejudice. As stated before with the EBS, caucasian and European features are highly sought after. Why? Because it leads back to the idea that white is the "dominant" color. White is associated with intelligence, beauty, and class. Due to this standard, colorism has woven its way into Latinx culture. We see these actors, singers, models, world leaders, as the pinnacles of success, power, and beauty. We associate all those aspects with the color of their skin.
Despite it only being Instagram, after working on these tests I have opened my mind to all the other instances of colorism that have happened in my life. It happens all the time, every single day. It happens not just to Latinx people, but to Black folks, Asian people, even whites toward other whites. But just like racism, colorism is taught and learned. Whether it be intentionally from prejudice parents, or unintentionally through the culture one is raised in, colorism is a learned framework of tagging people in society with “good” and “bad” qualities.
No one’s skin color has anything to do with their class, intellect, or future. We know this conceptually, and yet colorism is ever-present in how far too many people and institutions operate. With this experiment, I hope I was able to shed some light on colorism. It is real, and my goal is to help bring awareness to colorism in hopes that we can one day move past this real and terrible form of discrimination.
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