Colorism: The great divide within the Black community

Nedra Neely (middle), and her two younger sisters, Stacy (left) and Sandra (right).

A young black girl in the third grade with long hair down her back walked into her classroom at Vollentine Elementary and sat in her assigned seat.  While she was doing her work, another girl grabbed a pair of scissors and tried to cut her hair. She believed the other girl thought she was better than her because she was light-skinned with “good” hair.

Nedra Neely (middle), and her two younger sisters, Stacy (left) and Sandra (right).

Nedra Neely (middle), and her two younger sisters, Stacy (left) and Sandra (right).

“I felt like I didn’t belong at a very young age,” said Nedra Neely, who is 50 years old now. “I couldn’t help the way that I looked.”

African Americans not only face discrimination from outside of their community, but also within.  Inside of the African American community, many people face colorism which is defined as a form of discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.

Nedra Neely's great grandparents. Her great grandfather, Lanier Boyd, came to the United States as an immigrant from Ireland.

Nedra Neely’s great grandparents. Her great grandfather, Lanier Boyd, came to the United States as an immigrant from Ireland.

“I’m just like everyone else, so what if I have long hair and a lighter complexion. At the end of the day, I am still black,” Neely said.

 

 

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About the Author

Sydney Neely
Sydney Neely is a well-rounded journalist, having experience working in both print and broadcast. This summer, she interned at The Commercial Appeal, a newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, she had more than 15 stories published, including several on the front page. This prompted the managing editor to ask her to freelance for the paper. She finished the summer in Brazil, covering the Olympic Games as a flash quote reporter for sailing and basketball. Her internship at the Olympics has inspired her to change her focus to sports. Today, she is interning with the sports team at WMC Action News 5, shooting game footage and interviewing local basketball and football athletes. After Neely graduates in December 2016, she hoped to become a sports broadcaster and eventually work at ESPN.

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