col·​or·​ism | \ ˈkə-lə-ˌri-zəm How to pronounce colorism (audio) , -lər-ˌi-zəm \
variants: or British colourism

Definition of colorism

: prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin Under this system of colorism—the system which prevailed in my childhood in Jamaica, and which has carried over to the present—rarely will dark and light people co-mingle. Rarely will they achieve between themselves an intimacy informed with identity.— Michelle Cliff What writer Alice Walker defined as colorism, the preferential or prejudicial treatment of same-race people based on skin color, continues to this day. And as she once wrote, unless we exorcise it "we cannot as a people progress. For colorism, like colonialism, sexism and racism, impedes us."— Itabari Njeri

First Known Use of colorism

1964, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for colorism

color entry 1 + -ism, after racism

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The first known use of colorism was in 1964

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Dictionary Entries Near colorism

coloring book



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Cite this Entry

“Colorism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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