Colorism: How Can Brands Support Progress Towards Social Justice?

Photo credit: Embrace Race

Lori Tharps, Author and Assistant Professor at Temple University, recently partnered with Embrace Race for a discussion on colorism. Not as openly spoken about as racism, colorism refers to a person’s, “preference for or presumed superiority of people based on the color of their skin.” As Noetic amplifies Embrace Race’s cause and efforts, and as we partner with our clients, we are sharing our top four takeaways from this discussion on what businesses and brands can learn from experts on colorism: 

  • Engage in conversation and dialog to support the cause: Racism is often viewed as too taboo to discuss in our society openly. Colorism is even more so as it’s not as widely recognized or understood. It’s important more now than ever to have open conversations about what racial issues mean for our country, our society, your brand, and your customers, and what you’re doing to address it internally and externally. 
  • Demonstrate and celebrate the broader diversity that exists: Within the discussion, Lori referred to an analogy comparing human skin tones to flowers – they come in all different colors, tones, and hues, and they’re all beautiful with a purpose. Artist Angelica Dass created a project taking 4,000 portraits to show the spectrum of human skin colors, exceeding the Pantone Library of colors. Brand communications have a unique opportunity to communicate the inclusivity of a wide range of colors and fuel conversations to normalize the diverse range of skin tones. 
  • Ensure a spectrum of voices and colors in marketing, hiring, and communication tone: Various and valued perspectives should be listened to, represented, and shared. Too often, marketing, advertising, and communications default to an ‘ideal’ homogeneous voice, so it is essential to identify your own biases towards skin colors to affect your future choices and initiatives. For example, a 2006 University of Georgia study found that employers of any race prefer light-skinned black men to dark-skinned black men regardless of their qualifications – recognizing this should be able to inform your hiring process. 
  • Change starts early and at home:  the solution to solving our color problem as a country begins in the home – with parents and their children. From day one, if parents of every color start to celebrate color differences in the human spectrum instead of praising one over the other or pretending we’re all the same, we will enable a more public-facing, cross-cultural dialogue about colorism. 

Noetic believes Embrace Race is an important cause we are proud to support. We continue to educate ourselves and work with our clients to support the movement. We hope you also continue seeking to learn so we can all work together towards inclusivity and equality. Visit Embrace Race’s website and sign up to receive updates and invitations to upcoming webinars.