Updated: May 14
By. Wendy Davila
Oh America, the land of the diverse! Yet, it’s easy to find prominent examples of white supremacy in everyday life and activities. People of color, activists, and allies to the movement of equality amongst all ethnicities and races have been trying to let the world know that white supremacy is amongst us and has been since the dawn of time. Most of us probably assume that it isn’t a big problem because Martin Luther King Jr eradicated segregation during his civil rights movement. Unfortunately, white supremacists just found other ways to mask their true intentions. White supremacy has been a conversation repeatedly brushed to the side, but it’s time we make it the main focus.
A white supremacist is someone who “believes that the white race is inherently superior and white people should have control over other races,” according to Merriam-Webster. That said, it’s important to note that not all people with this belief are caucasian or of European descent. Colorism, a reasonably new term, is the idea that people are superior when they have a lighter skin tone and can be traced to colonialism’s pervasive and enduring effects. White supremacy and colorism go hand in hand and are more pervasive than one might think.
Take a look at the media and film industries. You’ll see that most celebrities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America tend to have lighter skin than the average person of that same nationality. Despite an increase in diversity in these industries, eurocentric features still dominate beauty standards. Rarely do we see men or women with anything outside of the “cookie-cutter” mold. Looking up to women and men with ethnic features, including hooked noses, hooded eyes, caramel skin, and beautifully textured hair, would be the ideal.
Latin America, in particular, has been historically affected by colonialism and mestizaje, and as a result, colorism occurs in communities of individuals of European descent and Indigenous individuals. The categorization of peoples in slang in Latin America results from colorism; the word “Indio,” which translates to Indian, can be used as a slur or insult in many areas. These stereotypes and categories are reiterated in films when we see dark-skinned workers as gardeners or maids and the lighter-skinned folk as rich and progressing in their careers. Major industries like the US film industry are propagating these negative stereotypes based on race and hindering social progress.
In modern beauty standards, colorism is ingrained; markets in Asia are filled with whitening creams with names like “Fine Fairness” and “Clear Fineness.” There are even procedures in Asia that create caucasian features to meet the beauty ideals demanded. In light of events like the Black Lives Matter movement, the beauty industry has started to be more inclusive with products and sensitive to social issues.
Even the traditions of the Church could be held accountable for colorism. In most Christian depictions of Jesus Christ, he is a man of ivory skin and eurocentric features. Whenever the idea of Jesus as a dark-skinned man comes into play, there is always backlash. Colorism has even made a guest appearance in the bible. The bible states very little about Jesus’ physical body, and even less about his skin tone, but it is a fact that he was born in Bethlehem, Palestine. So why have we composed a specific and restricted image of him as a white man and not as a man with traditional middle-eastern features? Despite evidence to the contrary, the idea of Jesus as white may have given more power to forces of the Church in their aim to spread the word of God in missions.
In modern-day America, we see colorism in societal status and expressions of class. People are desensitized to the idea that eurocentric men and women hold positions of power and people of color work under them. White supremacy runs deep and has evolved into systemic racism in its fullest form. White supremacy, systemic racism, and colorism have been around for centuries, but they are baseless and untrue. These issues can be overcome through education. It is time to see the errors in privileging skin tone, to recognize that racism is still rampant today, and to demand equality between all people be established. We need to open our hearts and minds to everyone’s struggles and stories to truly make a change, not only in the Americas but also in the entire world. White supremacy isn’t something that only the United States struggles with, it’s a global problem, and many suffer daily at their workplace, school, and even in their homes. Collectively focusing our minds and hearts towards compassion, we can all certainly do our part to fight the white supremacy evident today.
Wendy Davila is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things environment, sustainability and arts and culture.