Colorism in the Latinx Community! Ft. Lee Chin | Decoded | MTV

– Why would black people
in Brazil get upset about a black woman winning a beauty contest? The answer ends with “ism” but probably not the one you think. (soft techno music) Today we’re talking about
a mode of discrimination that predominantly impacts people of color and you might be surprised
hearing this from me, but this episode’s not about racism. I’m talking about “colorism”. First, let’s be clear about what the word colorism actually means. Colorism is not synonymous with racism. It’s a form of discrimination
based on skin color. And before you’re like, wait, isn’t that like the
literal definition of racism? Hold on to your social constructs because we’re going to knock a few down. And today we’ve got a special guest to help us with this demolition project. Hey Lee, let’s break this one down. – Claro que si. As a Latino of color, colorism is something I’m
all too familiar with. Racism involves
discrimination based on things such as skin color, but it’s also dependent on power dynamics that become perpetuated by years of structural oppression. Black and Latino men
getting longer sentences for the same crime as white men, racism. Black and Latino aunts telling you to date light skin men, colorism. Because we all think
of race with skin color sometimes distinguishing between colorism and racism can get tricky, particularly in Latin American communities where someone’s heritage
might include a combination of indigenous, black, and
white European ancestry. And let me give you a hint, it usually doesn’t get
better the darker you are, unless you’re Big Papi. Everyone loves that guy. The start of colorism we
recognize in Latin America today likely began when the
Spanish brought a European caste system to the Americas. Illustrations from Mexico
in the 1700s depict classifications for
individuals based on their gender, race, skin
color, or place of birth. And while this era generated
terms like “mestizo”, meant to refer to mixed race individuals, these hierarchies set the
groundwork for associating whiteness with power and desirability. How does this influence
Latinx culture today? Buckle up. First, is privilege. In a lot of ways, lighter
skin is still seen as better in Latinx communities and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sociologist Margaret Hunter
writes in her research, Mexican Americans with
light skin earn more money, complete more years of education, live in more integrated neighborhoods, and have better mental health than do darker skin Mexican Americans. A 2012 study showed that
employers viewed light skinned Black and Latino job candidates as more intelligent than the darker counterparts. And for those of you who
haven’t figured this out yet, skin color doesn’t determine intelligence. Go ask Bill Nye or Neil
Degrasse Tyson, thank you. Prioritizing light skin
tone also illustrates how colorism operates as a mechanism that encourages “passing”,
particularly among Latinos. That’s how you end up with
a 2010 census where almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified
as white, despite data estimating up to 46% of Puerto Ricans had significant African heritage. Puerto Ricans: who are we lying to? Which brings us to Number Two: Self Image. In Brazil, a model named
Nayara Justino faced the impact of colorism head-on. In 2014 she entered a competition
to become the reigning queen of the Globeleza Carnival, which is televised throughout Brazil. The title had always gone to a woman of Afro-Brazilian heritage, but Justino was Black
and very dark-skinned, whereas previous winners were
traditionally lighter skinned. Despite that, she ended up
winning the competition, only to have her title stripped
away after the Brazilian public was up in arms because she was “too black” to be the Carnival’s queen. In this instance, the outrage
over Justino’s skin color came from both white and black Brazilians. She was eventually
replaced by Erika Moura, a lighter skinned woman more in line with the color of previous winners. Colorism, it sucks. This is one way racism and
colorism are different. Systems of oppression favor white people, meaning black people can’t
technically be racist toward other black people, but clearly
in this case they can and do perpetuate colorism in
their own communities. The discrimination is coming
from inside of the house. Example number three: language. There’s a pretty common
phrase people in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic
grow up with, cafre. Among Spanish speakers in
the Caribbean the word means someone low class or brutish
and is said of people of all colors and racial backgrounds. The word implies you’re acting darker in both complexion and behavior. But the word itself carries a linguistic and cultural connection to blackness. It shares roots with the South
African racial slur, kaffir. Should we have bleeped that? A colonial phrase that rose to prominence during apartheid and that’s often compared to the “n” word in the United States. While cafre might not carry
the weight of an ethnic slur in Spanish, it’s indicative
of how colorism can quietly become a part of everyday life. So how do we begin to eradicate colorism from our communities? Let’s get to work. It starts with some self-reflection. Sometimes our learned prejudices can take over like muscle memory. So first and foremost, ending colorism means unlearning what we’ve been told about what beauty and success should look like. So that goes for you, the “I’m not Black, I’m Dominican” guy. You can be Black and Dominican, guy. But it also means breaking
the steady stream of whiteness that still dominates Latin American media,
politics, and culture. Trust me, I’ve been
working in entertainment for a while and I’ve seen things. Perhaps, most important,
be conscious of elevating and uplifting voices that break our cultural expectations
when it comes to colorism. And yes, have those tough
conversations with family members, especially the ones encouraging a premitas to date a lighter skinned guy. Grandma, ta quieta,
back to you Franchesca. – Ultimately, no one
wants to be judged solely based on their external appearance. Whether these judgements come from people who look like you or don’t, your skin color shouldn’t determine your job prospects, your worth,
or your place in society. We don’t have to be colorblind but combating colorism
means embracing the full spectrum of our skin tones, especially in our own communities. Special thanks to Lee Chin
for helping out this week. And thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time
right here on Decoded. (techno music)


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