I’d like to start off by thanking the Black and Minor Ethnicities (BME) Officer Dunola and the Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS) committee for initiating such dialogue. It is important to create a space on our campus for a topic as meaningful but also as controversial as shadism. Many may not know what it is, whilst others may feel that it is not a detrimental issue at all. Personally I had never put too much thought into it until I read the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series by Malorie Blackman. There was a part in the series which stuck out for me, where Blackman highlights the way that plasters are flesh coloured. When you stop to think about this, it raises the question of what exactly is ‘flesh’ coloured, given that humans and their flesh do not come in one standardised colour. This may seem like a trivial matter at first, however it is put into perspective when you expand the idea and consider such stories as where black amputees have had to pay significantly more for a prosthetic limb in their own colour.
A recent movement to reinvent the word ‘nude’ is one way in which people are resisting the normalisation of certain tones over others. Furthermore, I have to applaud the likes of Iman and Queen Latifah for trying to expand the make up market so as to include women of colour who are mostly marginalised by big brands.
The problem with shadism, however, goes beyond minor material things such as make up and plasters; rather it says a lot about how we as a society have seemingly come to a consensus on what is “beautiful.” This notion of beauty is taken for granted and we do not really question the abundance of beautiful light-skin girls in music videos, the myriad of stunning tanned models on runways and the lack of dark skinned women in advertisements. Shadism may have been a by-product of colonialism, however, now, today, in modern society, it is being propelled by the media, the make up companies and by people within our own race. Like any other sort of ‘ism’, this is a matter of discrimination and until bleaching creams are not seen as a normal beauty product or a necessary part of ones beautifying regime, this issue will only manifest itself.