Created by five students from Ryerson University’s School of Journalism in the spring of 2010, Shadeism, according to the Shadeism website, is a word that means “discrimination that exists between the lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community.” In Latina terms, that pretty much means women who are treated differently, or unfairly, because their skin color is lighter or darker than other Latinas.
Sometimes, a person might not even realize they’ve experienced Shadeism until they really think back to it. It can happen so unnoticeably that you’re not even sure if it’s even considered Shadeism. On the Shadeism website, there is a clip of the documentary that was done to start off the Shadeism movement, and in it are girls of color (not all Latinas) who talk about ways they’ve experienced Shadeism. One of them even says that her family called her by a nickname that was based off of her skin color when she was born. Kind of like calling someone “guerita.”
“My family’s been calling me guera since forever,” said Mia Salazar, 22. “I’m the most light skinned in my family. It’s never bothered me, I guess, because I am. I’m a guera. I never thought there was anything wrong with it.”
But if Shadeism isn’t always a bad thing, what’s the big deal? If people are treating you better because of your skin color, it must be okay, right? Wrong. Although it probably feels great to be called prettier because of your darker or light skin color, it’s not okay because of the people who aren’t being called pretty based on their skin color. This is why Shadeism began.
“I, myself, have never experienced Shadeism, but I’ve seen it a lot in my family,” said Luz Treviño, a freshman in high school. “But I’ve seen my tias and tios do it. They call one of my cousins pretty because her skin is whiter. They still love their son, but he’s darker, like his dad, so they just think she’s prettier.”
The five people who started the documentary realized Shadeism existed and wanted to get the word out on it so they could one day stop it. For now, the founders of Shadeism hope to finish filming their documentary, after visiting different countries and talking to people of various communities, just to raise awareness in hopes of getting the people of that community to get rid of any Shadeism they may have experienced in their region. Although the Shadeism website has yet to inform readers of how exactly to stop Shadeism, there is a video on the homepage that allows you to see the discussion between five girls and how they went about becoming aware of this type of prejudice. Discriminating, or treating people badly, because of a difference of theirs, for any reason, is always wrong, no matter what. And the best way to stop Shadeism starts with anyone who has seen it or experienced it within their own community.
If you ever notice someone treating anyone better or worse because they have light skin or dark skin, tell them it’s wrong. Especially if it happens in your own family. Family members might not even realize that they’re doing it, and telling them it is wrong can be helpful to them, as well as your community. Everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their differences.