How Skin Color, Race Create a Toxic Mix for Health

All over the world, dark skin affects millions of people. Within communities of color, lighter skin often confers better access, privilege — and better mental and physical health. (First of a four-part series on pigmentation via WebMD)

November 3, 2022 – In Asian, Black and Latino communities, Colorism The elephant in the room is sitting at the family dinner table, doing a group photo shoot, meeting strangers for the first time, or even playing in your kindergarten classroom. This trend is so entrenched in communities of color that it is almost taboo to talk about. Or maybe it hurts too much to be called names.

But, if you’re not of color, the concept can seem quite foreign. But that’s okay, keep reading. To excite, to boil Colorism For a simple explanation, it is prejudice, bias and prejudice based on skin tone and color.

“Similarities in Racialism. [Asian, Black, and Latino] Communities are particularly concerned with the veneration and glorification of whiteness and the idea that anything that is European and light-skinned is better,” says Nayeli Y. Chávez-Dueñas, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the Chicago School of Medicine. Professor of Professional Psychology says.

It includes ideas such as, “White people—followed by lighter-skinned people—are smarter and more capable and deserving of society. PrivilegesLike access to better jobs, wealth,” she says.

In our new document series, “Color by WebMD: WebMD’s Exploration of Race and Mental Health,” we’ll begin by addressing colorism and the phenomenon’s costly mental health impacts. We’ll also look at ways to break down the multiracial thinking patterns that prevent some people of color from truly recognizing and appreciating the beauty of different skin tones.

Colorism vs. Racism

Differentiating apartheid racism According to Radhika Parameswaran, Ph.D., an associate dean at The Media School at Indiana University in Bloomington, it can be difficult because one bleeds into the other. Racism is concerned with the attitudes, behaviors and treatment of one ethnic group towards another. For example, how a white community treats an Asian community. Colorism, on the other hand, looks at how members of a community of color treat each other.

“So, in some ways, apartheid is also about internalized racism,” Parameswaran says.

Where does the color come from?

Vanessa Gonlin, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at the University of Georgia, says that while racism has roots within certain ethnic groups, it can be traced back to European colonialism. For African American communities in America, apartheid stems from chattel slavery. Gonlin explains that colonizers created a skin-color hierarchy where light-skinned slaves were “housed” and assigned cooking, cleaning, and other duties that were often considered “easy.” Black-skinned slaves often worked in the fields.

“This caused a literal division among the enslaved people,” she says. “If you have these perceived differences that are actually enforced based on your profession, you are less likely to come together for a slave rebellion.”

Even after that freedom, some African Americans continued to color ideas in their communities. Gonlin gives the infamous example.Brown paper bag test“Especially among some Greek fraternities and sororities throughout 20th century.

“If your skin was lighter than a brown paper bag, you were allowed into certain spaces,” Gonlin says.

Coloration in Asian and Latino American Communities

When the Spanish started colonizing Latin America late. 15th century, they created a classification system. According to Chávez Duenas, people with light skin were at the top and those with dark skin and non-European facial features (eg narrow noses or thin lips) were at the bottom of the ranking.

“They used it. [ranking order] dehumanizing and excluding people who were indigenous or of African descent,” she says. “This system has been at work in Latin America for centuries.”

And in many Asian cultures, racism began long before the arrival of Europeans. Rather, skin color prejudice was linked to social class.

“If you’re light, that means you’re not working hard out in the field,” says Gonlin. “It was the idea of ​​having a luxury or the means to be able to live in. If you were black, you were a laborer.

It starts at home.

Perhaps the ugliest fact in cultures is that racism usually starts at home. Chavez-Duyas says that thoughts of self-doubt can be introduced very quickly and can be difficult to shake. In fact, color blindness often begins before birth. Comments like “I hope your baby turns white” or “I hope they have good hair” can be common for pregnant women, she says.

Parameswaran says that in some families, siblings with lighter skin tones are often admired.

“They will be sought out to present to the public.”

Parameswaran says it may sound scary, but it’s important to keep in mind that many families just want the best for their children. The idea that lighter skin affords children less social stigma and more career opportunities, romantic partners, and an overall “easy life” fuels colorful narratives.

The harsh reality for dark-skinned children

Off-color comments are usually uttered during casual conversation and often become the norm. Dark-skinned children can develop feelings of exclusion and low self-esteem, even believing their parents “don’t love them as much as, maybe, a sibling who’s lighter,” Parameswaran says. say

“There’s a lot of stigma attached to the child Shame on you – it’s like a heavy bag,” says Parameswaran. “Sometimes they don’t have the words to describe those feelings. So, they keep it inside, and it can be very harmful in the long run.

Some children carry that shame into adulthood, she says, which can make it difficult to maintain romantic relationships and just “make yourself as good as possible”.

Next, we’ll talk to mental health experts about how to overcome psychosis. Shock from racism. We will also explore ways that more people of color can – at their core – truly respect the beauty of rich skin tones and other racial characteristics.

Stay tuned! The next episode is scheduled to start on November 17.

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