The UofMosaic Fellows on each campus plan and participate in initiatives that build a culture of meaningful and peaceful exchanges of ideas on campus. These initiatives are typically connected to current global conflicts or social justice issues that are relevant to the Fellows and their broader student body. They range from moderated dialogues, to seminars, to art exhibits and more.
On November 19th, we, (UofMosaic fellows at McGill University), collaborated with the Black Students’ Network, to organize an interdisciplinary panel on colourism titled Throwing Shade: An Exploratory Panel on Colourism.
This panel featured four individuals, Professor Michelle Cho, Professor Kazue Takamura, Safyer Mckenzie-Sampson, and Nayani Thiyagarajah, all of whom provided deep insights on colourism from their own vantage points.
Colourism is defined as an act of discrimination based on skin colour, with favouritism being shown towards people of lighter skin tones and shades. As panelist filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah described it, colourism is the “insidious cousin of racism”. Similarly, graduate student Safyer McKenzie-Sampson described it as a construct to “create social distance” between racialized and non-racialized communities. Within the North American context, colourism has its historical roots stemming from a legacy of slavery against darker-skinned Black individuals. To this day, with full awareness that colourism continues to promote prejudiced, inequitable, and parochial standards of beauty in our communities, we felt that it was important to tackle this problematic issue.
One of our main goals in holding this event was to explore the various ways in which our communities can respond to the negative impacts of colourism in their everyday lives. We unpacked this issue by firstly discussing how colourism is manifested in diasporic communities with a focus on Anglo-Caribbean and Southeast Asian experiences. The panelists spoke of the origins and trajectory of colourism over time, and how it has been perpetuated through colonial influences, Asian representations in mass media, and institutionalized policies. Professor Takamura also discussed the manifestations of colourism through an academic lens, elaborating on the influences of colourism on hiring practices, international labour migration, and identity politics.
While the speakers addressed the institutional and systemic ramifications that result from colourism, some panelists ended the discussion emphasizing the need to have ongoing dialogues on colourism if we are to create purposeful and positive outcomes. With this panel, we hope that we have contributed to the ongoing conversations on campus that are seeking to address anti-Blackness and race relations issues.
We would like to thank everyone who attended the panel, the speakers and the Black Students’ Network (BSN) for making this event possible. Please keep in touch with our UofMosaic at McGill Facebook page for more information on our events.
Blog written by UofMosaic Fellows at McGill (Mayumi Sato, Serisha Iyar, Helen Ogundeji and Keira Kang)