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Colorism, and the Erasure of Dark Skin in Advertising

Colorism, and the Erasure of Dark Skin in Advertising

A global history of colonization, slave trade, and the marginalization of darker skinned people has affected the way in which advertisers' market to consumers. The assumption is that a white audience is the standard, meaning that any deviation from that standard is immediately categorized as “other”— or extraneous— from a generalized perspective. 

During the Reconstruction era in America (1863-1877), proximity to whiteness was a social currency that created access for the upward mobility of Black people. Mulattos (bi-racial individuals) who passed for white could find work, marry outside of their race, and even culminate generational wealth. Mixed race Blacks were assumed to have adopted favorable traits from their white side like civility, intellect, and beauty. The phrases “red bone” and “yellow bone” became slang terms used to identify this separate tier of the American social hierarchy. As this group became less stigmatized, it has become a vision of the palatable exotic. 

Products are curated and created for white consumers, and Eurocentric beauty standards are utilized to perpetuate an unattainable aesthetic. This aids a culture of colorism because it commodifies one's proximity to whiteness; subsequently categorizing some as the pinnacle of beauty, and the remainder as “other” and undesirable.
In order to combat the perpetuating of colorism through advertisements and popular culture, people of color need to have access to positions of power. Minorities offer valuable insight into the real experiences of marginalized groups and can eradicate the stereotypical imagery that harms oppressed individuals. Having a level of diversity within firms can help creatives dissect why they may perpetuate their unconscious biases on underrepresented communities, and in turn promote a culture of education surrounding the people they wish to advertise to.

We must fight the erasure of darker skinned individuals from the media, and work to unpack the racism that plagues us today. Companies like Nude Barre strive to bridge this representational gap by catering to hu(e)mans who have been historically cast aside because of their skin color. Our founder, Erin Carpenter, has made it her mission to create access and imagery that reflects the diversity of all that perform life.

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