Community dialogue takes on a conversation on colorism

Sydni Zidarevich, Justice, Equity and Diversity Beat Reporter

Community Engagement & Leadership’s winter term community dialogue event took on the topic of colorism and anti-Blackness hearing from keynote speaker professor Robert Thompson. 

Community Dialogues is a series implemented and established by the Community Engagement & Leadership provides space for students, staff and faculty to engage in complex thinking, to cultivate connection and deep learning through exploration of critical and contentious issues through skills of dialogue and deliberation, according to their website

“For us, community dialogue is a chance for people to talk about important social issues but in a way that is not a debate,” student facilitator for the winter term Community Dialogue, Faisal Kamal Osman said. “It’s more of a conversation and a way for people to share their experiences and their stories when it comes to different community topics.”

Last Thursday’s dialogue focused on colorism and anti-blackness, correlating with Black History Month and opened  with notes from Thompson, professor of Ethnic Studies who helped to define colorism, anti-Blackness and whiteness. 

“We wanted to focus on anti-Black colorism,” Osman said. “The color of your skin, the lighter your skin is, the closer you are to being white; in our community, and in this world, your proximity to whiteness will always give you more social power.”

Reflecting on his own experiences, Osman explained the importance of having the conversation of what colorism is and how it creates a power structure in ethnic communities particularly at an institution that is predominantly white.

“I think sometimes people forget that, even within our own community, that there are still inter-community issues. As a Black person, I might face issues in my larger community but also within my own Black community,” Osman said. 

The conversation on colorism not only spoke about the power structure created within our community, but on a global stage as well.

“It’s a global issue and it happens in every single part of the world where people go to the extremes and are bleaching their skin,” Osman said. “There are a lot of similar issues here where Black students feel as though they don’t belong or they might feel isolated in their community because they’re not white or they’re in a place where they are a minority…The issue of anti-Blackness is important to talk about and have that conversation in a larger community, within the University.”

“I can only speak from what I’ve witnessed in my family and my friend’s family. Our age group is really looking back on old traditions and questioning them and one question is ‘Why is colorism in my family the way it is? Why is anti-blackness expressed in my family the way it is? Why are we continuing to put down other family members based on the color of their skin tone?’” said co-student facilitator Seneca Moback.

 “If we can reach out to our student body, if they can talk to their friends and their families or whoever they might consider to be family, to begin those conversations in their own community dialogues, as an individual, to chip away at bias,” Moback said.


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