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Bethany Kamhiriri
Cynthia Hamlett
English 102
12 March 2015
Strangers in the Same Family: Community Discrimination
From the moment we are born, we are being given stereotypes. A girl means pink
accessories and dolls, while a boy means blue walls and trucks. We assume that just because
something or someone belongs to a group, they are automatically fit a description.
Discrimination happens when stereotypes are taken as the only truth, and different groups are
denied basic human rights. In the African American community, lighter skinned individuals are
favored and given more opportunities in the media, such as movie roles, than those who are
darker skinned. This reality has created a line between the black communities that has resulted in
intraracial discrimination. This barrier is preventing the community from moving forward
socially from racial oppression and anguish. African Americans continue to separate themselves
from one another because of their different depictions in movies, television, the news, and other
main sources of media.
Discrimination is present within every race, religion, and culture. This means that an
individual can be denied human rights based on prejudice. A big part of our history has been
about treating those with different opinions and cultural backgrounds with disrespect and hatred.
In American history, African Americans were one of the notable races to be discriminated and
hated based on skin color. In the times of slavery, white slave-owners were pushed to the top of
the social line and those who were of color were treated very poorly. In the many cases of mixed

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race, the lighter people would be treated better than the darker non-mixed people. Light skinned
African Americans were allowed to work in their owners house doing the easy work, while the
darker skinned did the backbreaking work in the fields. However, not all light skinned African
Americans were children of white people. The darker the skin, the more threatening, lazy,
unattractive, and unintelligent you were viewed. The advantage light skinned people had over the
dark skinned in the times of slavery has transferred to todays society Lightness may constitute
power in the African American community that has been used, directly or indirectly, to oppress
others (Sims 4). This has created an intra-racial line of discrimination between the two skin
colors that fails to cease. Being light skinned in the black community means having privileges
and opportunities while also being portrayed as smart and attractive. This fact is shown
throughout the media every day because racial stereotypes are maintained when African
Americans appear in media. Film and television are some of the vast contributors to this because
of the way actors and actresses are casted. Actors with light skin typically have the better off
roles where characters are leaders in the upper classes and are the more attractive love interests.
Darker skinned actors are commonly given the negative roles where characters live or work in
lower social classes. These characters are the criminals and the antagonists who usually terrorize
or get in the way of citizens and heroes. What is shown on the movie and TV screen affects racial
identity especially now because this generation is always plugged into the internet. The way we
act, what we buy, and what we think is all influenced by what is shown on those screens. In the
documentary Dark Girls released in 2011, women and children of all ages gave stories of how
they were treated differently because of the color of their skin. When they were younger, some
women would taunt and fight lighter skinned girls for no reason other than the fact that their skin
was different. They had lowered self-esteems because they were taught that black wasnt pretty

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enough. Several of the children interviewed were given a picture of about five cartoon girls who
had skin colors grading from light to dark. They were asked to point to the girl who was the
prettiest and most of them chose the white girl. When asked to point out the ugliest/dumbest girl,
they all chose the darkest girl (Dark Girls). What made them think that the dark girl was the most
inferior? We are shown images from when we are younger that influence the way we carry
ourselves. The color white is familiarized with weddings, birth, and heaven. The color black is
always put together with funerals, bad days, and darkness. In our colorblind world, there are still
factors that contribute to the inequality and false prejudice of race. The divide between light and
dark skin pigments may be unintentional, but it is what creates a social divide, colorism, within
the community.
Colorism is the specific discrimination of humans based the social connotations attached
to skin color. Light skin means having sophistication and an education, and dark skin means
inferiority and having little to no education. These stereotypes are detrimental to the progression
of how humans see African Americans differently. The barrier between light and dark skin in the
black community is adding to these stereotypes. When the people inside the race agree with the
stereotype, they prevent any change from happening. This oppression doesnt just impact African
Americans but also other societies. Grace Hsiang writes about her experience with intraracial
discrimination in her essay FOBs vs Twinkies: The New Discrimination Is Intaracial. She
explains that there is a line between races that accept other cultures, and in her case its Asian
Americans. There are those who continue to speak their native languages and eat their native
foods in America while completely rejecting its lifestyle. These people are exclusive with their
friendships and they pass judgments on the others who embraced the American culture. She
writes, We can avoid this internal discrimination simply by recognizing that we are of two

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cultures-and that in itself creates a new culture that should be fully celebrated (Hsiang 344).
Hsiangs quote about Asian Americans is similar to the way African Americans treat each other
based on skin color. When someone with lighter or darker skin is around, the other would see
them as if they were inferior or greater than. Skin color is not the only thing creating barriers in
the community. Depending on the traits a person received from their parents, an African
American can have light or dark skin, light colored eyes, and short thick hair to long curly locks.
Those with lighter skin are more likely to have fairer skin, longer flowing hair, with other traits
pertaining to their White heritage. The darker skinned people with roots closer to African
heritage typically have thicker curly hair and to be more desirable, black women permed their
hair to make it straight. This is a big difference when it comes to the barrier between the lighter
and darker skinned. In commercials, you see models with light skin and long hair advertising
shampoo but you are never shown hair that is natural to African Americans which leads to the
idea that natural hair is ugly. Young black girls are being shown that having lighter skin and
straight hair is better than having thick short curls. This is teaching them that their bodies and
skin are inferior, which results in low self-esteem. Also, when brands are advertising face
makeup, girls with lighter skin tones are targeted and the darker shades of the makeup are hardly
even produced. In music, the video girls are almost always lighter skinned. Black women started
using skin lightening creams to look whiter because of this. With famous musicians like
Michael Jackson and Beyonc using them, this practice has become more and more acceptable.
The lack of leading black men and women with dark skin in the media are making the
stereotypes true. However, these people are coming out and embracing their culture. This isnt
just with appearance, darker skinned men and women are stepping out and taking control of the
world. There are dark skinned people on television with their own shows and there are people

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selling music with number one hits. African Americans are becoming more accepting of each
other, and this is leading to society treating them the same. Our world has been doing a better job
at telling young adults to accept themselves for who they are, but we still have a long way to go.
The diversity of skin tones has placed itself very high in our society. To be accepted
means you have to pass some kind of test and prove yourself. A test commonly used within races
with darker skin tones is the paper bag test. This test determines who would be allowed to join
in on social events by comparing skin to the shade of a brown paper bag. Those who were
allowed to join the party or event were lighter than the bag. Other tests like the comb test and
the blue-vein society are ones you have to pass in order to be allowed access to educational
and social opportunities. These tests change over time and they may be more discreet in order to
prevent conflicts. Not allowing others to enter establishments and join clubs based on skin color
is segregation, but when it is within the race it is colorism. African Americans with dark skin
arent the only side that deals with unequal opportunities. Light skinned people receive better
opportunities, but they lack the support of an amazing culture of people. African Americans have
made it through many tough periods of oppression like slavery to civil rights and equality.
Throughout the centuries they have stuck together and made change happen. While light skinned
African Americans were also part of those movements, they were still treated better than the
darker skinned people. Another form of media that impacts our daily lives is the news. The news
is in between the television shows we watch and the content we view. Breaking news flashes
across our screens when we least expect them, and they tell us a variety of things. Local crimes
and incidents are what stick out to us the most. Each broadcasting station submits the same news,
but they also objectify it differently Leaders of the media claim that their news stations rest on
unbiased professional and objective criteria, and they have support for this contention in the

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intellectual community (Manufacturing 54). News reports and articles contribute to the racial
stereotypes we all know. With African Americans, we are shown over and over the horrible
crimes and incidents committed. We are almost never shown the inspirational or positive actions
that they have done. This is the misrepresentation of an entire racial group. If all you perceive is
negative information, the good things never make their way out. The things we read and see
change the way we treat people. We might see a dark skinned man kidnap a woman in a movie,
and think that is how all dark men act. We see a light skinned woman and immediately trust her
because she is pretty and fair skinned. These stereotypes have made their way into our thoughts
and make us view our world and people negatively. Despite the labelling, dark skinned African
Americans have continued to work hard and change the way they are viewed. In 2012,
#BlackLivesMatter was created after a teenager named Trayvon Martin was murdered by a man
who claimed he acted in self-defense. This organization was created to support and speak out
about the prejudice on African American lives We have put our sweat equity and love for Black
people into creating a political projecttaking the hashtag off of social media and into the
streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for
liberation.(Black Lives Matter). When the people of the same group come together despite their
differences, the society around them will do the same. Organizations like these are leaking into
the media, directly and indirectly influencing the world. When Trayvon Martin and the other
young black people who were murdered were given unfair trials, the black community came
together and showed the world what was wrong. Riots and protests in the streets made the news
for weeks, and their cries were heard. The light and dark skin barrier was broken and our society
moved one step closer to ending interracial separation.

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A big part of our history has been about treating those with different opinions and cultural
backgrounds with disrespect and hatred. African Americans were one of the notable races to be
discriminated and hated based on skin color. Lighter skinned individuals are favored and given
more opportunities in the media, such as movie roles, than those who are darker skinned. This
has created an intra-racial line of discrimination between the two skin colors that fails to cease.
This barrier is preventing the community from moving forward socially from racial oppression
and anguish. Dark girls grow up thinking they arent beautiful, and Dark boys are told that they
dont matter. Organizations help fix this problem, but it is ultimately up to the actions of the
public. It is important that the discriminating line between the black communities is removed,
because as soon as that happens others groups will do the same.

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Works Cited
Black Lives Matter. All #BlackLivesMatter. This is Not a Moment, but a Movement. 6 Dec. 2014.
Web. 11 Mar. 2015
Dark Girls. Dir. D.Channsin Berry, Bill Duke. Perf. Viola Davis, Kirk Bovill. Urban Winter
Entertainment.2011. Film.
Herman, Edward S, and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the
Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. Print.
Hsiang, Grace. FOBs vs Twinkies: The New Discrimination is Intraracial. Language
Awareness. 11th ed. Eds. Paul Eschholz, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. Boston:
Bedford, 2013. 342-344. Print.
Sims, Cynthia. "The Impact of African American Skin Tone Bias in the Workplace: Implications
for Critical Human Resource Development." Online Journal for Workplace Education
and Development. (2009): 1-17. SIU Carbondale. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.