The GSC Presents Let’s Talk: Women and Colorism

On April 1, 2014 by Grad Forum

colorism_thumbnailOn the evening of Friday, March 21, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) hosted Let’s Talk: Women and Colorism to encourage dialogue and discussion regarding diversity in race, ethnicity, and gender. Three panelists addressed skin color-based discrimination (colorism), and its impact on self-perception and standards of beauty in diverse ethno-racial communities. Following each talk, Meg Menon (GSC student life chair) moderated a group discussion amongst the attendees.

Paola Ortega (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, MALS) discussed the cultural construction of racial/color identities in the Caribbean (specifically, the Dominican Republic), explaining how the region’s historical and political race rhetoric differs from that in the United States. She emphasized the role of language and phenotype descriptors based on the gradient of one’s skin color (such as criollo, indio, mulato) in defining varying states of racial intermediacy in Dominican society.

Next, Vineetha Paruchuri (Department of Computer Science) explored regional and cultural aesthetic biases, ethnic stereotypes, and maintaining political correctness in diverse company. In addition, she shared empowering ways to address prejudice. In the evening’s final presentation, Keri Wolfe (MALS alumna and instructor at Granite State College and NHTI, Concord’s Community College) discussed the concept of “optional ethnicities” in the white American demographic and highlighted social imbalances that arise from ethno-racial inequity.

Following the talks, the attendees informally interacted with one another over sandwiches catered by Panera Bread. Haofeng Li (Thayer School of Engineering) observed, “As an international student, I find the Let’s Talk series a great way to understand different cultures and connect with fellow students.” Kate Farris (Thayer School of Engineering) also noted, “The open forum brought both men and women together to exchange thoughts on the meaning behind the identities that we either make of ourselves or that society makes of us.” Lisa Jackson (The Dartmouth Institute) also reflected, “Let’s Talk events create a safe place for graduate students to explore different viewpoints on sometimes controversial topics.”

Indeed, Let’s Talk events aim to serve the graduate student body at Dartmouth by facilitating honest, courageous, and constructive conversations on pertinent issues relating to community.

by Meg Menon

One Response to “The GSC Presents Let’s Talk: Women and Colorism”

  • Bridget Herrera (MALS) made valuable contributions to our group discussion. I wasn’t able to include her quote in the article due to word limit restrictions, but I would like to share it here (with her permission). Herrera writes:

    “The genetic make-up of the Dominican populace is heavily checkered, due to generations of miscegenation. Paula Ortega spoke briefly about renowned author, Ginneta Candelario, who’s masterfully written about this topic in her book Black Behind the Ears and the alarming propensity amongst Dominicans, and Dominican-American’s alike, of discriminately downplaying their inherited African traits by altering one’s exterior appearance or voluntarily placing themselves within the sovereign category of “indigeneity.”

    There exists an overt refutation of self amongst darker complected Dominicans. A vast majority of Dominicans dislike being marginalized as black due to the pejorative connotations associated with the term in the island and within the diaspora. It should be clarified, that this construct of race had its foundation lain by its colonial antecedents, the Spaniards who founded the Capital of Santo Domingo as the first Colonial settlement of the Western Hemisphere.

    Then by way of el Trujillato, the dictator, Raphael Leonidas Trujillo, reinforced these notions through political propaganda and social auspices, like the Haitian Massacre of 1937. The latter, coupled with Trujillo’s ambition towards “whitening the land” has left many quizzical of their own racial identity. Trujillo’s notion of an ideal community has cast a communal trauma in that it has bequeathed its Hispanic people a legacy of cultural denial, perpetuating a discriminating practice of selective racial self-identification.”

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