Colorism is the belief that people who are lighter are automatically more attractive. It's something that typically affects communities of color, and for the most part, it occurs subconsciously. Colorism certainly isn’t anything new, in fact, think about the way lighter-skinned slaves (house slaves) were treated in comparison with field slaves, who were often darker-skinned.
I sat there in shock as I tried to explain this to a white colleague of mine at work while he responded “I've never heard of that,” with a puzzled face. And when he struggled to see the issue with Zoe Saldana’s blackface (practically) in the Nina Simone biopic, I almost lost it! Did I mention I shortly dropped this colleague after this conversation? In all seriousness though, the conversation quickly reminded me that there are actually people who go through their entire lives not having to worry about how just spending an extra hour in the sun might make them "less attractive" to many.
What bothers me the most about what my mom said is the fact that it even gave me pause for one second. I grew up in a small town in Texas, so I'm VERY used to polarizing people by simply having dark skin. I’m used to being fetishized, receiving back-handed compliments, or just being told flat out that I was “too dark.” But from the day I first stood in the mirror years and years ago, and told myself that I was handsome, beautiful, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my skin, I haven’t had to deal with too much bullsh*t from other people.
But this whole experience reminded me that I'm not immune to these ridiculous beauty standards, no one is.
I write this as an affirmation for myself and to others who have had similar experiences. Please don’t be afraid to go out and get your summer glow on, because at the end of the day, the skin we’ve been given is special, and it doesn’t deserve to be hidden, no matter what people might say.