Many in Hollywood have called for diversity initiatives to be intersectional by asking Hollywood not just to elevate white women but black, Latina and Asian women as well.
Few are addressing diversity within underrepresented groups – be it differences in skin colors, features, traditions or religious practices. Not doing so creates a monolithic representation of these groups, which isn’t a true reflection of those populations.
Addressing eager crowds at Beautycon in New York City in Sunday, actress Zendaya raised her concerns about certain black women being left out of the picture.
“I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a black girl and that has to change. We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to be just the only representation of that.”
Colorism can be held by people outside or inside a racial or ethnic group who discriminate against darker skinned individuals. Just look at the lack of Afro-Latinas on TV shows, darker complected South Asian women in movies or that Lupita Nyong’o remains one of the few black women with dark skin hired to represent a makeup line.
In an analysis of the top box office movies in 2017, USC Annenberg found that black characters had the closest on-screen representation proportional to the population breakdown in the United States at about 13 percent each.
However, that number isn’t true for black women, who like all women in film, are underrepresented. Women of any race or ethnicity only make up one-third of speaking roles. Of the 100 movies in the study, 47 had no black women at all. Imagine just how few of those roles went to dark-skinned women.
Changing the picture for all women requires us to look at how colorism affects the lives of women with darker skin. If Hollywood diversity initiatives are going to be truly intersectional, it will have to confront all of its prejudices, colorism included.