Racism | Colorism

Exploring Shadeism — One Year On

Why a book about colorism is more relevant than ever

One year ago I launched my book Exploring Shadeism — an assessment of the colorism phenomenon. As we rightly focus on #BlackLivesMatter and issues of equity and inclusion, it seems even more pertinent today.

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Exploring Shadeism cover — courtesy of author

What is Shadeism?

For those who don’t know, shadeism, or colorism as it’s now more often known, is discrimination based on the shade of your skin. In countries with a period of enslavement in their history, you may find that people with darker skins have fewer opportunities open to them than their lighter skinned counterparts. That certainly used to be the case for my grandparents, and possibly even my parents.

Summary of Exploring Shadeism

Exploring Shadeism looks at the phenomenon of shadeism within the context of the wider Caribbean, focusing particularly on Caribbean history and literature. It also examines two theories that are useful in explaining why shade discrimination has taken root in the Caribbean.

Exploring Shadeism book trailer — produced by Selwyne Browne for Sharon Hurley Hall

“There are people in the older generation who make comments about nice skin and nice hair, and essentially they are talking about the straightness of your hair and the blackness of your skin.”

And:

“I don’t consider that lighter equals more attractive, but I do recognize that lighter often equals more opportunity, more privilege.”

And this quote from the book resonates with the US experience:

“To be white in the Caribbean is to have money, power, and the freedom to do anything or nothing — it is, in many ways, to occupy the top rung of society.”

Racism and Colorism — What’s Next?

In Barbados, the protests in the wake of the George Floyd murder (which we discussed in the Beyond the Black Square episode of our podcast) have sparked another round of discussions on our colonial heritage, with many people openly tackling issues around white privilege, implicit bias, and even the possible remove of a controversial statue.

“White people today can choose to live different lives, to behave differently, to think differently, to love differently, and to stand up for equity and justice. White Barbados needs to have a conversation with itself. The time has come.”

Black Barbadians also need to have those conversations, as Linda Deane, writer, publisher, co-founding editor of ArtsEtc pointed out at the book launch:

“Exploring Shadeism by Sharon Hurley Hall is a timely contribution to writing and publishing in Barbados…It is timely politically, coming as it does during the debate around race, identity and #blacklivesmatter. It is also timely as a teaching tool, as grown-ups need to find ways to understand shadeism themselves so that they might guide young people struggling with self-esteem relating to their blackness.”

Truly, the time has come.

Written by

Pro writer (B2B/B2C). Antiracism writer. Co-host: Introvert Sisters podcast. Global citizen. She/her. Sharon’s Anti-Racism NL: https://antiracism.substack.com/

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