10 May NIKKI
When did you first realize colorism existed? What are your experiences with colorism? What happened? Personally, I experienced colorism while attending an HBCU in the south. It was my first year and I lived on campus, I can recall this day very vividly. I walked into a classroom, sit with someone I had just become friends with. The classroom was hot with no air condition. I think I might have complained about the heat. Next thing I know I hear “What do you know about the heat, house n****.” I don’t remember my response but I remember how I felt. To be in the south & called such a hurtful word, a word I had never been called in NYC definitely made me feel like I was being judged for something I didn’t say or do. It caused me to shut down and become more introverted. Thereafter, I was ready to change schools because I felt so awkward. I thought I could try to stick it out and maybe pledge a sorority. I then found out the one I was interested in was for light skin girls. On top of being overly expensive, I didn’t want to deal with these issues. I came back to NYC and finished my degree where I knew my diversity would blend into the fast pace city.
How do you overcome any feelings of inadequacy or privilege? One of the verses that has been very helpful for me is Philippians 4:8 “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.” I have hope for humanity in the midst of the times we live in. When I’m feeling inadequate, I fix my eyes back to Jesus. On a practically level, I try to be kind to others, not just the hi, how are you” kind but truly kind, with hope that mindsets can be changed through an encounter with a kind, diverse person. I definitely implement this at work where I’m typically the only black woman in my group.
What obstacles if any have you seen because of the color of your skin? In the business world, my color can either be beneficial or …not so much. My color sometimes helps me receive opportunities but once received I sometimes wonder if I received the opportunity because I’m black and can help with the company’s diversity numbers or because of my skills. It’s hard to think of the latter when you end up being the only black person in your group.
How do you feel your color is represented by the media? I think black women are portrayed very poorly in the media. There are some great shows with 1 or 2 black women and that’s great but other than that, for a larger group of black women, the only shows that come to mind are reality tv filled with drama.
Do you think the representation has an effect on you and others around you? How does it make you feel and how do you think other people view you as a result of it? I feel as though I am representing for all black women esp. in business settings where I’m the only black woman in the room. Its adds additional pressure. I’m not sure how I am viewed but I just try to be my best self without letting my guard completely down.
What does colorism look like today? It looks very similar to how it did years ago, except it’s a little more subtle with less color diversity. Black women come in so many colors, we need to see more of that vs. one type of woman who is overly sexualized.