Chika Okoro, a Harvard graduate and Stanford Business School student, is undeniably a boss. But in a recent TEDxStandford presentation, Okoro spoke about something that affects even someone as accomplished as she is: colorism.
In the video titled Confessions of a D Girl: Colorism and Global Standards of Beauty, Okoro calls out the racist and destructive hierarchy that exists within the Black community and other communities of color.
Okoro begins her presentation with a story of how she looked at the casting calls for girls in Straight Outta Compton, and how the casting called for the most beautiful girls to have lighter skin, and the less attractive, less wealthy girls to have darker skin.
Okoro said at first she was angry, but as she thought about it she admitted, "That's just the way it is," she said. "Something as subtle, and sinister as racism: colorism. The discrimination of those with a darker skin tone. Typically amongst individuals within the same ethnic or racial group," was in full affect.
Okoro told the story of colorism in the Black community, explaining that its origins are in American slavery, as slaves who were given "house" duties were often lighter skinned, and displayed Anglo-type features. She explained that in the modern day, Black people now hold these standards up to one another, and gave an example from a memory she had in which she was told by boys in school, "You're so pretty, for a dark-skinned girl."
Okoro did not stop at America, or the Black community. She told the audience that in China and India, skin-lightening and bleaching demands have created a multi-billion dollar industry, despite the fact that consumers are aware of the possible health risks.
She even showed a heart-breaking video of a young Black girl assigning attributes like smart, beautiful, dumb, and ugly, to pictures of darker or lighter skinned girls. In the video, the toddler consistently assigned the negative attributes to the darkest-skinned picture.
She concludes that these beauty standards are not something we are born with, but something that is learned through society. Because they are learned, she assures us that they can be unlearned.
Okoro finally encouraged the audience to question the status quo, and create a more inclusionary, more accepting world for all people, regardless of skin color.
(Photo: TED x Stanford via Youtube)