Colourism describes the intraracial prejudice that allows for discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones. This inequity is based on social, cultural and historical norms and ideals attached to skin colour/shade. So basically, the lighter you are, the more privilege you have.
Growing up Somali, we’re all used to nicknames like “Cadeey” (translation: “Whitey”) used as a term of endearment for those with lighter complexions. “Dhuxul” (translation: Coal) is a derogatory term often used to describe individuals with darker complexions. Many women use skin bleach or pale makeup as a way to appear light-skinned. This ideal of normative whiteness is a widespread yet undiscussed issue, rooted in racist and colonial histories.
‘Shady Business’ is a design project that aims to provide a space for conversations on colourism. It is a digital platform (website) where people like me – young Somali women – can relate through perspectives and experiences with colourism. But also a platform where we will have the opportunity to give ourselves, each other and generations to come, the advice we would have needed from our elders but couldn’t receive due to the oppressive systems put in place by an external party; the white man.
This project highlights the intergenerational perspectives of individuals affected by past and current manifestations of colourism, in hopes of it adding to conversations that will shift the focus and blame from the oppressed to a more systematic and holistic overview of the issue. Our parents are bearing decades of trauma that they themselves don’t understand because of it being so normalised. We’re the generation that can demand change for ourselves and set new tones for coming generations.