This paper explores how your cultural background affects your perception of colorism. Using an interview with a first-year student with a different cultural background as myself. The interview allowed me to provide a real example of how an individual’s cultural background may impact their perception of colorism. By viewing transcultural issues like colorism it allows for readers to gain a vast perspective of the impact culture and its associated expectations may have. The goal of this paper was to give a review of how the influence of cultural history may shape the perspectives of social issues associated with the individuals in the culture.
How Culture Affects Colorism
Colorism is a heavily discussed topic in the Black & African American community. It is defined as discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Unlike many racial issues, this topic affects minorities differently based off of their culture’s beliefs in regard to the issue. To develop a greater understanding on how one’s cultural background shapes their belief system I’ve interviewed someone from a different culture to compare and contrast our views on colorism. If today’s activists wish to be united they must embrace not only their similarities, but their differences. African-American, Hispanic and immigrant culture are widely understood and discussed, but the sub-set of cultures throughout certain regions like the Dominican Republic and Nigeria do not get as much analysis. It is widely accepted that to understand the present we must have an understanding of the past. This paper examines how cultural differences shape our perspectives on the social issues we endure, specifically colorism.
I chose to interview my classmate Jane. Jane is a nineteen year old girl who immigrated from the Dominican Republic at 6 years old. She is a light-skin hispanic who has been denied her cultural authenticity because of her skin tone. She currently resides in an area that is a clear reflection of the immense diversity in America. These factors may seem insignificant, but the purpose of this paper is to examine how these cultural differences shape our perspective on the world. As minorities in America, Jane and I have had uncomfortable encounters surrounding the topics of race. With the uprise of activism in our digital age, minorities are more unified on these touchy topics than ever before. Yet, colorism is a racial issue that affects all races in a different way depending on their culture’s beliefs on the topic. I am a Black second-generation American, although my parents immigrated from Nigeria I resonate more with Black culture because it is all I’ve ever experienced growing up. As an immigrant, Jane’s cultural identity is not solely linked to DR or America. She identifies with being a DR native more, claiming this is because she lived there through her most impressionable years, but one can argue that she has more experience with American culture. Being from DR means two different things, there is the United State’s progressive, yet racially charged meaning and the Dominican Republic’s historically influenced, yet colorist meaning. The combination of all these factors all molds how we perceive the importance and effects of colorism.
Jane’s mother is light-skin while her father is dark-skin, because of this Jane realized that people discriminate based off of skin-tone frequently. She recalled that her lighter cousins would not be afraid to tan, knowing it would go away soon. Meanwhile her darker cousins would refuse to play outside for a long time because their parents did not want them looking any darker. These experiences caused her to only perceive colorism as a social issue, unlike in the U.S. where we are constantly reminded of the systematic and financial barriers caused by these ideologies. I am the first-born on both sides of my family, I never experienced colorism until I started school. That is where I learned about things like the paper-bag test and how many dark-skin people are envious of lighter-skin people because of their likeliness to be accepted by whites. As I grew up I became more interested in activism and found there was an accepted belief that the focus should be overcoming systematic racism. This is just one example of how cultural backgrounds affect how we even think about the way colorism manifests in our day-to-day lives.
As a collective, our ability to adapt and accept cultural norms as the only way to live has the power to make or break us. When you stay in the bubble created by your own cultural beliefs, it’s not easy to see the world at face-value, everything gets filtered based off of an individual’s cultural rhetoric. This transcultural assignment makes me realize that many of our perspectives may not necessarily be the ‘truth’ or even factual, but they align with our understanding of the world. Everything is inherently subjective, but talking to people from different cultures on social issues that affect us all may help us see what factors we’ve overvalued or did not even consider. For this reason, there needs to be more discussions bringing people from multiple cultures together to discuss more social issues.
Famuyiwa, Folake. (2019, September). Personal interview with Jane.