Being a half Sudanese who has fallen victim to this kind of racial policing, I am always curious to see in what ways non-Sudanese react to our racial ambiguity. By racial ambiguity I am not only referring to the color of one’s skin or the texture of one’s hair. The majority of us carry different combinations of African, Arab and Muslim identities.In non-Black Arab spaces I avoided speaking Arabic for fear of spawning confusion. And in Black spaces, I feared that my Arabness undermined my blackness. Even being around just African American you sense of “belonging” gets lost. Them not accepting me because I am not fully “black”. Just because your hair texture is different, your skin shader is darker or lighter, you speaking a second language should not affect where you fit in. It’s still a real issue today but my younger generation are nothing and becoming more aware of it. Today I now speak Arabic whenever or wherever.
White Arabs and North-Eastern African have internalized whiteness making it subconsciously acceptable to participate in colorism. Being “whiter” in Sudan is such an issue. Females are continuously bleaching their skin. Men prefer “lighter” women because that’s considered more “beautiful”. White Arabs are feeling like Sudanese are “too black” to be Arab. North-Eastern Africans are not considered to be apart of the Middle East because of the colonization back then. Another issue is North-Eastern Africans not identifying as being African. North African benefits from being linked to the Middle East. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt share not only a colonial past with the rest of Africa, but also a physical continent. All those countries don’t speak the dialect of Arabic, but we are Arab and we are African.
Colorism is everywhere latin community, South Asian community all around.
South Asians who are more darker get put down. In the Latino community, the darker Latinas aren’t claimed as being Latina because of their shade.
Our generation must speak out. We should talk about color. Admitting cultural downfalls is not self hate or degrading to oneself. It’s easy to ignore criticisms from others, but having Middle Easterners pushing for change in the Middle East will be the spark for permanent change.
We must acknowledge and accept the various shades of Arab, we must accept every shade of Black, we must accept every shade of human. When you hear passing slurs, pull people up on it, even if they are your relatives; it will do nothing but enable unity and progress. Correct anyone and everyone.
We must speak out in the black community, we must speak out in the Arab community, we must speak up in all communities that still today put down darker shaded individuals. The various shades of African American skin stem from the mix of genes resulting from white slave masters’ rapes of black slaves. Their mixed-race children were still considered slaves based on the one drop rule, yet they were granted more privileges than their dark-skinned kin. Light-skinned slaves were characterized as smarter and more capable, were often given some form of educational training, and worked less harsh jobs inside the house while dark-skinned slaves worked outside in the fields. This divide has caused a lot of problems still existing today. Colorism is a product of white supremacy and colonialism: a disease. It’s designed to “divide and conquer” by targeting people of color, and creating prejudice/ self-hatred amongst themselves.
I decided to give Ryan Setchel who is an inspiring makeup artist a call to chat about colorism in the makeup industry. At first, she told me a story about watching models on television, who is darker than I am. She said that all those models wore foundation shades that were too light for them because the cosmetic lines didn’t carry a shade dark enough for her. A lot of makeup industries are now noticing to add more shades for society. She also added “ I think people are recognizing it as more of a problem now/ it’s being brought to more people’s attention who wouldn’t know it’s a thing (white people) because beauty bloggers are talking about brands who are being good like Fenty and Beauty Bakerie and that’s a good thing because it’s being addressed by the beauty community.” Now Rihanna as come out with Fenty beauty products, the foundations having so many different shades.Ryan Setchel also added, “When Tarte shape tape foundation came out and the shade range was trash nobody bought it which is really cool because boycotting products like that can create actual change maybe.”
Below is a video of Rihanna discussing all woman should feel beautiful regardless of his/her skin tone.
Something most people aren’t aware of or simply just in denial of. This topic takes center stage in the Black community. I am African American and Sudanese. Sudan is in North African, Arabic being the native tongue there.
Colorism, like racism, is systematic and institutionalized. It privileges light skinned people of color over dark skinned people of color. Although the logic of colorism differs depending on the ethnic and racial community, for Black Americans it derives from slavery. During slavery and ever since, light skinned Black people have been privileged because aesthetically they are closer to whiteness.
Colorism is very much so in the Arab community. The negative attitude towards dark skin, and the need to disassociate Middle Easterners from it, derives from attitudes towards African people. I made many friends of African descent for various reasons, including the similarities in our cultures and beliefs. Arabic is spoken by not just white arabs (Palestinian, UAE, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, etc.) but also African Arabs (Egypt, North Sudan, etc.)