Oprah and  Iyanla VanzantThe idea that light skin is “better” than dark skin is something that has pervaded the psyche of certain cultures for a long time and for people of color, this color complex plays out in numerous ways everyday.  From backhanded compliments like “you’re pretty for a dark girl” to preferential treatment to lighter skinned siblings to cliques in school that seem to form along skintone lines.  All of these situations point to internalized racism that we call colorism.

Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant will be tackling the topic of colorism on tonight’s episode of Lifeclass. A live audience composed of women of various hues surrounds the media mogul and the lover of beloveds in this new episode. The clip shows tearful moments, hugs and a round of triumphant applause as the women delve into the often painful light skin/dark skin conversations.

Dissecting an issue as complicated and layered as colorism can be a daunting task, especially when people are so emotionally invested in the topic. I have personally witnessed a conversation about how to classify Kerry Washington’s complexion, delve into complete insanity, hurt feelings and damn near blows.  Surely, the people in that argument did not care deeply about Washington’s skin tone, but they felt a personal connection to the basic issue of how one’s skin tone is viewed and the personal and professional impacts of that perception.

We’ve seen colorism discussed head-on in various forms, like the Bill Duke-directed documentary Dark Girls and in that now famous Jiggaboo vs Wannabes scene in School Daze. But are these public conversations ever constructive? Do they ever help to elevate consciousness or do they only serve to momentarily rile up extreme emotions and boost ratings?

Has a conversation or film/television ever significantly changed your views on colorsim? Do tell.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.

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