What is the difference between colorism and racism?


What is the difference between colorism and racism?

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Racism is concerned with perceived ethnic or racial heritage. Colorism is just about the color of a person. For instance in parts of Asia such as India or Viet Nam. There could be two 100% Viet people, both people would say they are the same race, but the darker skinned person would be seen as less attractive, less wealthy, and probably less educated. The prejudice has nothing to do with race, only color or complexion.

I’ll leave the definition of racism as an exercise for the reader. It’s complex, political, and I think most people have a generally good handle on what it means. Instead, let’s differentiate colorism

Colorism is usually within a group of people instead of between members of different groups, and exists to create a hierarchy within the group much like racism believes there is a hierarchy among races. This is almost exclusively against darker skinned people within any given group, and although lighter-skinned individuals benefit it’s not exclusively imposed by them. In many cultures, it is so ingrained that even victims of it can internalize the concept and end up feeling inferior. There is a reason “skin lightening cream” is an over $8 billion dollar market worldwide.

It’s highly present in MANY Asian countries, and to an extent it was brought into both Africa and the Americas by colonizers who were almost exclusively light-skinned people who had massively more wealth and status than dark-skinned peoples.

You could probably also count a good amount of European racism into colorism depending on how you want to define race. Traditionally, the darker-skinned Mediterranean peoples were considered lesser than their paler, more northerly counterparts.

Colorism can be a huge, massive deal in certain communities and causes a lot of misery across the world, but white westerners can often be blind to it, either because it corresponds to their own expectations, it benefits them, or simply because they pay so little attention to communities of other races it just never comes up.