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Colorism: Belizean Self-Hate

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Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2022. 4:37 pm CST.

Тhе vіеwѕ ехрrеѕѕеd іn thіѕ аrtісlе аrе thоѕе оf thе аuthоr аnd nоt nесеѕѕаrіlу thоѕе оf Вrеаkіng Веlіzе Nеwѕ.

Ву: Dr. Кеndrа Flоrеѕ-Саrtеr; Саlіfоrnіа Варtіѕt Unіvеrѕіtу, Рrоfеѕѕоr оf Ѕосіаl Wоrk: Though, I’m not a big fan of beauty pageants because beauty to me is more than what’s on the outside. Over the past few days, I kept seeing the promotion of the Miss Universe Belize competition on my Facebook timeline. After countless time of me scrolling pass the ads my interest peaked when I realize the contestants included a mathematics professor and a Ph. D candidate. So that finally made me click on the Miss Universe Belize page. Yes, your marketing worked it got me to finally click but only because I wanted to learn more about the contestants especially because they seemed highly educated which is definitely a plus.

As I scroll through the miss universe Belize page with my oldest daughter next to me reading all the details about each contestant. It was amazing to me that when we got to Ashley Lightburn’s picture and her bio my 14-year-old daughter said mom she looks like me. She’s tall and skinny just like me was her exact words. She’s always been shy because of her height. I’ve always realized the importance of representation, but it was in that very moment I realized just how vital it was for our children to see themselves in others.

My daughter loves math and is also a high school honor student in her school’s healthcare academy where STEM is a huge part of her learning. They are so few Black girls who are in the STEM field as Ms. Lightburn noted so to have her as a Belizean representing science technology engineering and mathematics is a major deal. As a Belizean woman, I am proud to see this young lady being a leader in our community. I as a fellow university professor knows the importance of teaching young minds how to believe in themselves and strive to become all the things that you dream. Ashley is definitely a true definition of Black Girl Magic and Black Excellence. Which brings me to the reason I decided to write this article.

My daughter and I viewed the pageant and as I looked at her face each time Ashley took the stage I saw a sparkle in her eye. For a mother that sparkle means everything. It means she no longer feels like there’s no one else out there like her and realizes that she can also be a part of the STEM world and follow her dreams. This to me is the most significant piece of the Miss Universe Belize Pageant.

Our young girls saw women that they can look up to and emulate in education which is why I was so saddened by the instant negative feedback over Ashley winning the crown. Ashley is a Belizean Gem. A phenomenal young woman who is also a professor as well as a graduate student. I don’t know her, but I understand that she’s very humble and kind to those in her community. Not only is she intelligent but also seems down-to-earth and personable. That to me will always represent a winner.

However, it seems all the controversy over her win has to do with what she looks like as opposed to her life’s work and achievement thus far. No one seems to be paying attention to the role model that she is for all our little Belizean girls and boys that are looking for someone they could identify with. The comments about how she looks and the objectification of her physically has been so unfair and unkind. I love my people, but many took it too far beyond what it should be. This brings me to the concept of Colorism and its existence in my beloved country.

As a child I remember hearing “the baby dark, have tough head/hair, have flat nose, have round face, look like this and look like that.” I cringe as I remember that some of those words came from my friends and family. Which is why when I had my children, I made it a point to say I don’t want to hear anything about what they look like or have anyone comparing them to others. That was a deal breaker for me. I never wanted my children to be objectified by any means and I stand with that to this day. I do not care who is lighter, who has a sharp nose or who has straight hair or a narrow face. What I care about is how your heart is, the respect you carry, and how humble you are with others regardless of skin color, Race, Ethnicity, Education, and Social Status.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of colorism is prejudice or discrimination, especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. One of my favorite author Alice Walker defines Colorism as the preferential or prejudicial treatment of same-race people based on skin color. It seems many Belizeans are caught up with the European standards of beauty which reinforces colonialist viewpoints within our country.

Our Miss Universe is a dark skin SISTAH/SISTAR/SISTER which brings me to the question of whether she’s receiving all this hate because she’s not a light skin girl. If a light skin girl had stumbled on the question the same way Ashley did, would she be receiving the same feedback? I highly doubt it. It’s very hard for me to decipher why so many of her very own Belizean community members are being so unkind and just outright mean with their comments towards this young lady even referring to her African roots even though black Belizeans roots can also be traced back to Africa.

The ignorance of my Belizean people is so disheartening. Marcus Garvey notes that “a people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” Ashley is the root of our Belize and she should be celebrated not hated.

Just like many, I don’t want to believe that my beloved Belize has a colorism problem but deep down I know it exists and it saddens me to the core to think that we can hate our very own people because of skin color. If you think it doesn’t exist become observant the next time you step outside your door and ask yourself the following questions: do I see a truly diverse and inclusive environment around me, is there a true representation of all the different types of Belizean with all different skin color around me, do I see a prevalence/dominance of one race over the other as employees in certain stores/department/agencies, do I see hair care that I can use for my hair texture, do I see toys that is a representation of my child.

Look for the equal inclusion of all Race that exists in Belize. It is vital that we all pay attention to this issue because if we don’t as Alice Walker posits colorism, like colonialism, sexism, and racism, impedes us.” It is important for all of us to be conscientious of what we say and what we do.

I agree all the contestants were beautiful and intelligent in their own right, one being a Ph.D candidate which is very impressive and should be equally celebrated. However, you must consider the humbleness of Ashley and her dedication to Belize through her work to bring more STEM based learning to our country. Finally, Ashley may not have been your chosen winner, but she is the one who was crowned. We as a community need to rally around her and support her even though we preferred someone else for the crown.

Respectfully,

Dr. Kendra Flores-Carter
Assistant Professor and Researcher

 

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5 Comments

  1. Dr. Angela Banner Joseph says:

    Excellent article Dr. Kendra Flores-Carter and congratulations to Ms. Ashley Lightburn, Miss Universe Belize!

    • CM Jennings says:

      Congrats to the winner, Ms. Ashley Lightburn, Miss Universe Belize! Your drive and determination, not to mention your amazing educational achievements, are impressive. I am sure you will inspire a huge number of Belizean boys and girls and encourage them to pursue and achieve their own dreams and personal goals, academic or otherwise. Personally, I will be happy when women no longer ‘compete’ against one another in these type of ‘pageants’. Instead, we work collaboratively to build a universal movement for the fair and equal treatment of our people – a world where we support, respect and work to help each other to achieve our true potential, regardless of our religion, race, gender, ability (or any other means by which we choose to discriminate against each other).

  2. Eric says:

    Good article, but the last line puzzles me. “We as a community need to rally around her and support her even though we preferred someone else for the crown.” It sounds like she is including herself in the second “we”.

  3. Mandie says:

    Although I agree with SOME of what Dr. Kendra has written, it must be noted that people cheer for whom they know or are familiar. I am a very dark skinned educated Belizean woman who was rooting Alina, but understand that I’ve known her for over 15 years. Congratulations to Ashley and to all the candidates who are role models to little girls who see their future selves as one of them.

  4. Jenel says:

    I read the whole article and don’t see the purpose to it. All it serves is as a way to divide. Are you only a Belizean gem and worthy to be celebrated if you are black and educated?Regardless of whatever comments people were saying after the crowning, all the candidates are Belizean gems regardless of their color. Its clear to see the author of this article has her preference as she only referred to Ms. Alina Scott as a PHd candidate; that young lady has a name. I as well was rooting for Ms. Scott, not because of her color but because growing up and attending church camp I always saw her and from then she had a genuine heart. I may not be her color or resemble her but Im proud of what she is doing because she is a Belizean doing something that she loves and making a name for herself. Too many times we want to associate colorism and racism where it shouldn’t apply.

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