Colorism -- the discrimination of people with dark skin -- has been a hot-button issue for years, with documentaries like "Dark Girls" being one of the more recent projects tackling the topic. Even in Black feminist spaces, there are discussions about the role colorism plays in omitting the images and contributions of dark-skinned feminists. But colorism doesn't only affect black American women, as perfectly illustrated in a new TEDx Talk video.
In a Youtube video posted on May 22, Stanford Business School grad student Chika Okoro explains the ways in which colorism has impacted her personally, citing the disappointment she felt after reading the controversial leaked casting-call for the film "Straight Outta Compton."
The casting call asked for "A Girls" who were light-skinned with real hair, the "hottest of the hottest." But for D Girls, girls playing the less desirable female extras in the movie, casting directors wanted: "African-American girls, poor, not in good shape, must have darker skin tone."
For Okoro, a native of Los Angeles and a huge fan of the movie, the casting call felt like a betrayal, but not a totally surprising one. "Because in my world, this phenomenon is all too familiar. Something just as sinister and subtle as racism: colorism."
Okoro then goes on to break down how the beginnings of colorism in America can be traced all the way back to the days of slavery, when slave masters would rape and impregnate female slaves, resulting in mixed race children. The distinction between the darker and lighter skinned slaves created a racial hierarchy on plantations, with darker skinned slaves more likely to be forced to do laborious work in the fields and lighter slaves working more often in the master's house, fueling the fire of internalized racism.
"But colorism is not just isolated to the US," Okoro adds. "Its effects are global, as best illustrated by the skin lightening products sold all over the world. In India and Asia alone, skin-lightening and skin-bleaching is a multi-billion dollar business, despite the harmful toxins that are present in these products."
It doesn't just end with the products themselves, either -- there are also the countless commercials, magazine ads, and billboard across Asian and African countries alike that suggest happiness and success come with being lighter.
Okoro ends her talk by challenging the advertisers and executives in the audience to do something about the global issue of colorism and challenge the currently held standards of beauty in the industry. "Among us are CEOs, and co-founders, directors of marketing. You all are the arbiters of what society considers beautiful, by deciding who you choose to represent your brand. So when you have the opportunity to make that choice -- make the unconventional choice."
Watch the full TEDx Talk above.