COLORISM CREATES BARRIERS and PRESENTS DANGERS FOR BIPoC IN THE OUTDOORS.
Simply soaking up the sun, or existing, can lead to harassment, gaslighting, divisiveness, erasure and violence. Colorism crosses borders, ethnicities, cultural identities and genders. We exist in a ‘pigment-ocracy;’ a calling card of post-colonialism. Colorism creates a spectrum of oppression and privilege, based on skin tone, at the gravest expense to our darker-skinned relatives.
Intersectional Colorism + Bias
Being of mixed culture, heritage and race made the experiences of Me, my (light-skinned) Twin-Sister, and my darker-skinned older Sister quite layered. In our experience, depending on the location, I may be racially ambiguous because of my 'medium-olive' skin. In some places my Indian features and Dominican body have garnered hate, pity, praise, and violence: comments like ‘Indians are freaky’, 'spicy bitch', ‘You look dirty when your skin tans’, 'Towel head', 'Dirty Savage', 'Medusa', and ‘Terror!sta’ are a few that come to mind. See, I have to carefully read all of the spaces I enter into while traveling. I have to be strategic for the sake of my own safety, and especially those who I travel alongside, who are more melanated and/or marginalized than I.
[Me (Asha): Lighter-skinned in this group situation, and also Darker-skinned in other group situations]
While hiking in NH with my white and 'passing' cousins, my twin sister voiced out loud that upon greeting hikers, passersby would only respond to her white partner. Then, later that day at a grocery store, we were followed by store employees, stared down by customers and decided to walk out. Our peers made statements like ‘no way, thats just in your head.', 'I don't know, it didn't happen to me.' and 'NH is fine, you don't need to be afraid.’ Mind you, my siblings, mother and I knew better: months prior, we had been violently chased by a highway serial killer in NH, and managed to get away, later to read in the news paper that the truck driver had chased a man in the same way later that week, and managed to get him out of his car and severely beaten. This driver had a record or 'calling card' yet no arrests were made.
Stay Alert + Aware
It's so important to remember that you could have 5 people with the similar complexions in a room, all from different ethnicities, yet not all have the same privileges, nor the same experiences. We all hold bias. This is just as relevant outdoors, as history shows, which is why we choose to travel as a caravan. There is safety in numbers, Representation and Allyship.
Be A Better Ally (A Better Relative)
When effectively unlearning Colorism, Phobias and Anti-Blackness, particularly outdoors in nature, forgetting is not the goal, acknowledgment and awareness. We need to practice stepping back and processing that we all experiences very different realities. Let's make it a habit to ask ourselves: "Who is really the most marginalized in each given situation, and could they use support?" If you are experiencing colorism in your group or setting, share your thoughts and mental state with a support system that you can trust—Avoid holding trauma in, as it will fester; and Cultivate self-trust, as it could save your life.”