Colorism: How We Can Be Better Allies to Our Black Brothers and Sisters

My father keeps the remote in his hand the entire time we watch the news. Every few minutes, he alternates between CNN and MSNBC. After a few of these rotations, he switches to Fox. We quickly shift back. We play this game until it is time for dinner or until one of us grows exhausted by watching the police repaint the streets of this nation with the blood of Black bodies.
At the dinner table, we tell each other about our days. My brother tells me his was filled with tiresome errands and a fierce game of basketball, but no gunshots.
I look down at his sweaty arms and I try to picture the veins still pumping blood through his body that is not deemed black enough for bullets.

I compare our complexions. I thank God for the skin I once cursed Him for.

Can you blame me, though? I was seven years old the first time a relative assured my mother that I was “still cute, despite her complexion.”
I was eleven when my childhood best friend and I had our first fight and she used my skin tone as an insult.
I was sixteen years old the first time I bleached my skin. I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that I didn’t feel more beautiful. I was taught, over and again, that my darkness was a flaw and that the melanin in my skin was not supposed to be there.
Colorism is a vital part of the Black Lives Matter movement and the conversation surrounding racism. We want police officers to not stop shooting Black people but we have created a spectrum of acceptable versus unacceptable Blackness.
How will the police officers know what shades are threatening and which shades are just coming home from tiresome errands and a basketball game?
How am I supposed to know how much bleach is enough?

A meaningful way for the South Asian community to be participatory in the Black Lives Matter movement is by erasing colorism from our own homes before pretending to be champions of justice.

…Because even though we hate seeing Black bodies being shot by police, we cannot ignore the racism that has a seat at our own dinner table.
This is not about making Black Lives Matter about Brown people.
In order to be useful allies, we must stop practicing, behind closed doors, the type of racism that is getting our brothers and sisters killed on the streets.
I internalized the colorism that the Brown community projected on to me for most of my life, and it had an immense impact on my sense of self worth.

I inevitably projected that internalized colorism onto other people; a vicious cycle of hurt people hurting people – as hate always is.

I pray that God gives me daughters. I will take them outside, acquaint them with the sun and let them soak in the glory of being as brown as I wish I was allowed to be.

Written by Amara S. Chaudhry.