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Black Lives Matter Has South Asians Confronting Colorism

By Lori L. Tharps

Photo credit: Harshraj Gond

This essay appeared originally on My American Meltingpot.

In 2016 my book about colorism, Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families was released. In that book, I wrote about how colorism manifests in Asian American, African American, Latino, and Mixed-Race Families. While I have been tangentially writing and talking about colorism as long as I have been talking and writing about Black hair, writing Same Family, Different Colors forced me to deep dive into skin color politics and history on a global scale. Needless to say, I have a much deeper understanding about this insidious, discriminatory social construct we call colorism.

Colorism Isn’t a Black Thing, but It Is Rooted in Anti-Blackness

Before I started my research for the book, I knew Black Americans weren’t the only people who were “color struck.” I knew skin color mattered in Latino cultures and in Asian cultures as well, but I had no idea how globally pervasive colorism really was. What’s more, even though the path to fetishizing white skin differs in each global community, here in the United States, where all of these different cultures live together, colorism is rooted in anti-Blackness, which then prohibits any true community building between Black Americans and other communities of color. It’s depressing and complicated.

Black Lives Matter Makes South Asians Confront Their Colorism

As a person who is a firm believer in the power of coalition building, I am very encouraged by the current energy bubbling up in the South Asian community around colorism, thanks to this current iteration of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Of course, there have been activists in this community who were doing this work before George Floyd’s brutal murder, but there is a new sense of urgency and commitment to confront colorism from this community—both here in the US and in Asia—that gives me hope.

Confronting Colorism in South Asian Communities Makes the News

Here are some recent stories about the South Asian community, here and abroad, and their recent conversations and actions against colorism.

Embrace Blackness So We Can All Be Free

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Racism, colorism, and anti-Blackness are inextricably linked, and we can’t attack one without encountering the other. Our antiracism work has to encompass defeating colorism and anti-Black bias as well. The resources are out there if you’re looking for help, but at the end of the day, the message is simple.

Black Lives Matter. Blackness Matters. Black Is Beautiful. Black Excellence Is All Around You.

Once the world can acknowledge these simple truths and actually believe them, then our work will be done.



About the Author 

Lori L. Tharps is an associate professor of journalism at Temple University and the coauthor of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in AmericaKinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain, and Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families. Her writing has also appeared in the New York TimesWashington Post, and Glamour and Essence magazines. She lives in Philadelphia with her family. Follow her on Twitter at @LoriTharps and visit her website.