In last week’s column I presented one of America’s dirty little secrets. It is called colorism.

I suggested the following about colorism: Colorism is a preference of white and light skin over dark skin. It is a derivative of racism that is both an implicit bias and an explicit bias. It is ubiquitous in nature as every population of color experiences its effects.

The white community is not exempt from its effects. As such, colorism has impacted every quadrant of American society: employment, housing, health care, education, beauty, the justice system and more. The perennial question is: Has colorism affected the Protestant Christian Church?

Why research such a topic? While it is reported that Americans are less likely to be affiliated with a church in recent years than in the past, the church, as an institution, still influences American culture in a major way.

For many people, the church is an integral part of their everyday lives. Equally, for many people that have been hurt by the church, Christianity is a constant internal battle that must be reckoned with daily. So, to ignore colorism and Christianity is to ignore a significant part of American history and culture.

The psychological impact of colorism on people of color cannot be denied. Colorism has, more often than we might want to admit, negatively impacted individual and communal self-worth. It is reported that a young Black girl had just returned from Sunday school at one of the white megachurches in America. Her mother saw her standing in front of the mirror in her room staring at herself and crying profusely.

The mother quickly asked what was wrong. The little girl asked, “Momma, why does God hate me?” Her mother inquired, “Honey, why do you think God hates you?” She stated, “because in Sunday school the teacher told us that God loves everything that is pure, white, and holy; and, that God hates all things that are Black and evil. God made me Black, so that must mean God hates me too!”

How many women of color have been taught that all things evil are Black and that God must hate them because they are Black?

The issue of colorism and Christianity must be investigated thoroughly. Many Black and white Christian churches in Columbia have engaged in discussions and book studies about race. Such efforts are commendable. But talking about race but failing to tackle the issue of colorism provides only a partial narrative. If we are serious about building a more just society, we cannot avoid seriously discussing colorism.

I invited you to join me in the research project on colorism and Christianity. The research will make us ask questions about ourselves: How many times have we acted based on colorism, or behaved in a manner to demonstrate we are “color-struck?” How can we combat colorism and move beyond the foolishness of white-skin, light-skin discrimination?

Finally, I believe that we can overcome any “ism” that stands in the way of uniting us as one people. My interest in investigating colorism is not to attack Christianity, but to better it.

I believe that Christianity at the core is an attempt to make us one. We must face the obstacles that separate us if we are to fulfill the vision of becoming a beloved community.

The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.


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