“The Black Woman Series” discusses how race intersects within our everyday lives. The first part of this series went over what it is to be a black woman as well as what that experience is like. The second part of this series focused on the concept of Colorism.
The seven panelists featured in this discussion shared their personal experiences with colorism throughout their lives. The event also featured a brief video, “Why Women Change the Color of Their Skin.” This video discusses issues of colorism through looking at the controversy over Lil Kim the rappers’ undergoing facial reconstructive surgery and skin lightening to look whiter. Due to current beauty ideals, there is pressure for women of color to conform and change the way they look in order to meet these standards. These beauty standards include having light skin, blond hair, blue eyes, and being slender. Patience Zalanga, a photographer, stated that Lil Kim’s transformation is an extreme but it is not a phenomenon as, “black women and women of color are always aspiring to get as close to white as possible, and fit those beauty standards.” There is a multi-million dollar skin bleaching industry within the United States. According to the W.H.O. (World Health Organization) in 2011, 77% of women in Nigeria used skin-lightening products regularly, as did 40 % of women in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea. These statistics show the prevalence of colorism not just in the United States, but globally as well. Further suggested educational learning on this topic: The 1941 novel by Tony Morrison, The Bluest Eye.
Colorism: Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with darker skin tone/complexion, typically among people within the same ethnic group. Colorism is not just an issue in the United States or isolated to African American communities, it occurs globally as well. Colorism has a lot to do with a proximity to whiteness, how close someone is or appears to be to whiteness. This in turn instills a light skin privilege. Historically, this divide within the African American community manifested itself in times of slavery through allowing lighter skinned slaves to work inside the home, while darker skinned slaves had to work outside. Another concept relating to Colorism is the idea of Passing. When an individual “racially passes,” they are able to appear white, allowing them access to privilege compared to their counterparts. Until the 20th century, the “brown paper bag rule” persisted in African American communities. The “brown paper bag rule,” determined who would have access to privilege and inclusion in various organizations, universities, and events. In turn, this rule denied entry to individuals whose skin stone was darker than a brown paper bag.
- Marilyn Stewart, an Alumni of Oregon State University, works as an Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. The core of her approach as an academic advisor is assisting students to make informed decisions in becoming even more academically successful as they move toward their goal of earning a College of Liberal Arts degree. Marilyn came to Oregon from Washington D.C. however she originally is from Northern Florida.
- Dr. Tenisha Tevis, is an Assistant professor in College of Education with an emphasis in Adult and Higher education at Oregon State University. Tenisha’s research focuses on the policies and practices higher education administrators utilize to help disenfranchised students gain access to and persist through college. Specifically, she explores disability services and the polarizing effects of race. Tenisha grew up in Sacramento, California but came to Oregon from Stockton, California.
- Dr. Ramycia McGhee, is a Chicago native and holds a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from UW-Whitewater, M.S.in Journalism from Roosevelt University, and an Ed.D in Education Leadership Management from Capella University. Before beginning her career at Linn Benton in fall 2017, she worked as an adjunct English instructor for City Colleges of Chicago. Her specialties include developmental writing and adjunct professional development.
- Elizabeth Kaweesa, is a third year PhD student in the Chemistry department at Oregon State University. Her research focuses on drug discovery as well as cancer research. Elizabeth also serves as the president of the Black Graduate Student Association. Elizabeth is from a fishing village near Lake Victoria in Uganda.
Kayla Spears, is the Student Leadership Liaison at the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center. Kayla is a fourth year Political Science major and the vice president of the NAACP chapter at Oregon State University.
- Justeen Quartey is a fourth year Public Health major and the president of the Black Student Union at Oregon State University. Justine was born and raised in Sacramento, California.
- Sarah Smith, an Alumni of Oregon State University, is a University Development Project Coordinator 1 for the Carlson College of Veterinarian Medicine at Oregon State University. Sarah is from Beaverton, Oregon.
- Panelists: Marilyn Stewart, Tenisha Tevis, Ramycia McGhee, Elizabeth Kaweesa, Kayla Spears, Justine, and Sarah Smith.
- Format: The panelists for this event were seated in front of their audience in a single line. The event started with a short video and then progressed into a Q&A and open community dialogue format with the panelists.
- Moderators: Terrance Harris, Marisa Chappell, and Micknai Arefaine
- Date: February 7, 2018
- Location: Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center