Diversity Blast: Colorism, Colorblindness and Color-consciousness

“I don’t want anybody to have a rude awakening, but I want everybody to be awake…So I guess that means that somebody will have a rude awakening.” Jalisia Taylor-Singleton, Vanderbilt Senior and 2014 Atlanta Corps Member, said these words to me this morning as we hashed out her plans for a 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board event at Vanderbilt. She was speaking about racial awareness, and how hard it can be to understand and talk about race; how people can avoid the tricky, uncomfortable or downright painful realizations associated with racial consciousness. Her words reminded me of one of my favorite James Baldwin quotes: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Facing race and color is difficult, but so necessary if we are going to achieve the considerable aims of our organization. With that in mind, this week’s blast is all about color: colorism, colorblindness and color-consciousness.

Racial Colorblindness: the phenomenon of “not seeing” race

Psychology Today: Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism by Dr. Monnica Williams

  • Colorblindness is a way to say “we are all equal,” but in truth, our lived experiences vary greatly depending on the race and color we present to the world.

Colorblindness: the New Racism? from Teaching Tolerance

  • This piece examines the effects of colorblindness in a school setting.

Colorblind Notion Aside, Colleges Grapple with Racial Tension by Tanzina Vega

  • Despite (or perhaps because of?) the move towards colorblindness in admissions and policies, racial tensions and difficulties surface again and again.

A Religion of Colorblind Policy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • Colorblind policies that ignore the conditions of race and racism, such as the GI Bill and race-blind admissions, tend to disproportionately harm people of color.


Colorism: discrimination based on skin tone or skin color wherein individuals with darker skin are often viewed less favorably

Study Shows People View People with Dark Skin as Less Intelligent by Ann Brown

  • A recent study showed that dark skinned people were viewed as less intelligent, and when people thought of particularly impressive individuals, they recalled them as being lighter than they actually are.

(video) How Colorism Affects People Around the World From “Colorism: The Secret Shame”

  • A description of this segment from Oprah’s “Life Class”: It’s an issue that wreaks havoc among African-American, Asian, Indian and Latin American communities: colorism. What is it, and why has it led to discrimination for hundreds of years? Watch as Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant address the prejudices and misconceptions associated with light and dark skin.

(podcast) Behind Closed Doors: ‘Colorism’ in the Caribbean from NPR

  • Description of the clip: “The hierarchy of skin color — black, brown, dark-skinned, light-skinned — has long been a source of division within African American communities. But it’s not just an American thing. Miami Herald reporter Frances Robles talks about her recent report on ‘colorism’ in the Dominican Republic.”

We’re las prietas (the negros): My Grandmother and Boricua Colorism by Dorian Ortega

  • Ortega recounts how her identity as a Boricua and her identity as a brown-skinned woman have complicated one another. She also lays out the ugly associations with being darker or bronze-skinned in the opening poem.

Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o’s Speech on Beauty that Left an Entire Audience Speechless by Joseph Lamour

  • In her speech, Lupita describes her journey of describing how she came to love herself.

Several resources from the folks at Colorism Healing:

5 Lessons on Colorism from Lupita Nyong’o’s Essence Speech by Sarah L. Webb 

  • Some concrete takeaways from Ms. Nyong’o’s speech above.

Black in Latin-America: Haiti and the Dominican Republic by Sarah L. Webb

  • This documentary explores the legacy and persistence of colorism in the Afro-Caribbean

How Colorism Affects Light-Skinned Girls and Women by Sarah L. Webb

  • Exploring the subtle and pervasive ways women of all shades experience colorism

Colorism: The War at Home by Dr. Yaba Blay

  • Dr. Blay’s piece speaks to the effects of colorism on the psyche, and what we can do to upend its legacy.

Erasure Hurts: Why the Discussion About Pharell’s Album Cover Matters by Kimberly Foster

  • Foster speaks about why the absence of dark-skinned women on Pharell’s album cover served as a painful reminder of who the typical ideal of beauty leaves out.

Color-Consciousness: an awareness of color and race at the micro and macro level.

From Despair to Repair: Preparing College Students to Navigate Racial Conflicts on Campus by Roderick Carey

  • Education researcher Roderick Carey examines the inter- and intrapersonal effects of racial tension on college campuses from the mid-Atlantic to just up the road at Vanderbilt.

“I, Too, Am Harvard” by Alison Vingiano

  • 63 Black Harvard Students Share Their Experiences in a Powerful Photo Project 

On Twitter, ‘Being Black at University of Michigan‘ by Jennifer Preston

  • Over 1,000 Black students at the University of Michigan led a protest on twitter to decry University policies around decreased enrollment among minority students and offensive practices in the Greek scene.

Ultimatum on King Day by Scott Jaschik

  • More on the Black student protest at University of Michigan (with video)

Why This Year’s Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue Cover is a Great Leap Forward by Henry Barnes

  • The only Vanity Fair “Hollywood Issue” in history to boast as many actors of color as white actors has caused more than a few people to stand up and take notice.

Let’s march fourth (ha!) into a deeper understanding of the effects of race and color on our worlds, and–paraphrasing our Co-CEO Matt Kramer’s words from last night–wake up every day asking ourselves how we can better work towards anti-racist ends.

All best,



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