2019 Online Commentary finalist

Shades of Black

The Guardian US

Online Commentary


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About the Project

You already know black American women are paid considerably less than white men; that young black men are five times more likely to be incarcerated as white youth; and that black children are suspended from school at a much higher rate than white children.

This is how racism works. But what is less discussed is another “ism” that also derives from slavery.

“Colorism” is the discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone. This means that darker skinned black people have to fight prejudice even within their own community, where lighter skin is seen as more desirable. As such, darker skinned black people can experience both racism and colorism.

This topic, while faced by virtually every single non-white person in the US, remains taboo. To put taboos into words and push them into light tend to make them less powerful – and Guardian US wanted to do just that by opening the floor to writers willing to break down doors and get the debate started.

We did this by publishing a series of 12 pieces – opinionated essays, personal testimonies, video, and social media work.

Dream McClinton, one of the three editors on this project, says that while writing her piece, Dark-skinned Black Girls Don’t Get Married, she felt drained and defeated. “Hearing the levels of oppression women and others like me face for something so mundane and arbitrary like skin tone, there were moments where I would require a hug or just walk away from my desk altogether.”

But throughout this series, dark skinned black writers spoke openly about reclaiming their worth in spite of a system that has been holding them back for so long.