Self-internalized racism damages U.S. minorities

Cartoon by Nick Briceno

Cartoon by Nick Briceno

Spike Lee is right. “Post-racial” America is “bull****.”

Racism, unfortunately, too often comes from people of color tormenting themselves.

Internalized racism is the rejection of one’s native ethnicity and culture. Racism manifests itself in ethnic communities that have historically been subjected to violence and domination.

Poverty and oppression of the past have damaged present-day people of color. Through negative, stereotyped media images and acculturation by authority figures, ethnic minorities are conditioned to believe that they are stupid, lazy, violent and unfit to exist in mainstream society. As negative attributes are assigned to people of color and positive attributes to whites, minorities learn as children of their race’s misfortunes due to their skin color.

Within Latino communities mothers and grandmothers swoon over which of their offspring is the whitest and the “loveliest,” the ones with green eyes and blonde hair, all the while muttering indio and prieto to their moreno descendants.

“Whiter” individuals are often given preferential treatment by their peers. In African-American communities the brown paper bag test of the 20th century is a sore memory. Creoles were accepted to church or society only if their skin was lighter than a brown paper bag. One hundred years earlier, the lighter skinned slaves were employed as the house slaves, while the darker skinned slaves suffered in the fields.

Darker skinned African Americans and Latinos often resent the preferential treatment, and labeling lighter skinned individuals as race traitors, Uncle Toms, and pochos.

Destructive racial attitudes damage the cohesion of ethnic communities. Darker children often grow up hating their skin because it is the most plausible explanation in their developing minds for their mistreatment. Internalized racism damages children, causing feelings of inferiority and resentment that follow them throughout their lives.

People of every race should be taught that their color is beautiful, no matter the shade. Until then, the cycle of self-hatred continues.


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