"COLORISM CREATES BARRIERS & PRESENTS DANGERS FOR BIPoC IN THE OUTDOORS. Simply soaking up the sun, or existing, can lead to harassment, gaslighting, divisiveness, erasure andviolence. Colorism crosses borders, ethnicities and genders. This week, in their own words, the Diversify Vanlife community is speaking out about colorism outdoors." (an excerpt from instagram page @diversity.vanlife)
We exist in a ‘pigment-ocracy;’ a calling card of post-colonialism. Colorism creates a spectrum of oppression and privilege, based on skin tone, at the gravest expense to our dark-skinned brothers and sisters.
Being of mixed culture, heritage and race made the experiences of me, my (lighter skinned) twin sister, my (darker skinned) older sister quite layered. In my experience, depending on where location, I may be racially ambiguous because of my 'medium-olive' skin. In some places my Indian features and Dominican body have garnered hate, pity, praise, and violence: ‘Indians are freaky’, ‘You look dirty when your skin tans’, and ‘Terrorista’ to name a few. I have to carefully read all of the spaces I enter into while traveling. I have to be strategic for the sake of my own safety. Subtle forms of Colorism can make a mixed person feel vulnerable insecure about how to navigate teachable moments vs. potentially violent ones.
While hiking in NH with my white and 'passing' cousins, my twin sister voiced out loud that upon greeting hikers, passersby would only respond to her white partner. Then, later that day at a grocery store, we were followed by store employees, stared down by customers and decided to walk out. Our peers made statements like ‘no way, thats just in your head.', 'I don't know, it didn't happen to me.' and 'NH is fine, you don't need to be afraid.’ Mind you, my siblings, mother and I knew better: months prior, we had been violently chased by a highway serial killer in NH, and managed to get away, later to read in the news paper that the truck driver had chased a man in the same way later that week, and managed to get him out of his car and severely beaten. This driver had a record or 'calling card' yet no arrests were made.
Stay alert and aware. It's important to remember that you could have 5 people with the same complexion in a room, all from different ethnicities, yet not all have the same privileges, nor the same experiences. We all hold bias.
When effectively unlearning colorism, forgetting is not the goal, processing is. Share your thoughts and mental state with your support system. Avoid holding trauma in, as it will fester. Cultivate self-trust; it could save your life.”
Words by @asha_art.n.soul