Blog: Throwing Shade-ism

Your BME Rep, Renée Landell, gives us an insight into what shade-ism is, and a rundown of the BME Network's event with guest speaker, Adreyn Cash.

On Thursday 25 January, the BME Network hosted an engaging discussion/debate on the issue of shade-ism. We tackled and discussed the importance of eradicating the stereotypes and misconceptions that are on the basis of complexion; And, of course, we just had to invite singer/songwriter and ‘BKChat LDN’ cast member Adreyn Cash, to co-host.


There was a great turnout with a mixture of students, non-students, black, Asian, white and other all in attendence. In true ‘BKChat LDN’ style—a worldwide web-series and phenomenon which sees a range of BME individuals discuss prevalent issues on race, gender, class and identity.

Adreyn raised very insightful points of concern which lie beneath the surface of the greater problem and highlighted the extremely important power of speaking up and speaking out.

It would be so easy, and in fact more ideal, to classify shade-ism as an unjustified rant, but in BME communities, shade-ism is a very real and detrimental part of our experience.


So, What Is Shade-ism?

Similar to racism, yet different in theory and practice, shade-ism (otherwise known as colourism) is a form of prejudice based on skin tone, which commonly occurs within a community, among those of the same ethnicity.

Shade-ism can yield questions such as: “am I dark enough to be considered black/Asian etc.?, “am I too dark to be considered beautiful?”, “Does being educated and well-spoken make me uncultured?” 

In the world of social media, the fetishism of light skin is very evident, but how does that translate into real life?


We discussed several other topics, which include: the perpetuation of shade-ism through social media/society, beauty standards and relationships and the counter-productivity of derogatory jokes.

But, one of the most crucial points of discussion, was an examination of who is affected by shade-ism. With the popularity of self-bleaching/tanning and bodily enhancements/reductions, we asked: does shade-ism only affect women? and, does it only affect dark skin people? The responses were mixed.


But there was one point which we all agreed with, in the words of Adreyn…

“Life is a struggle anyway, you have to love everything about you, whether that’s the “kinky-ness” of your hair or the complexion of your skin, because ultimately for you to make it through this life, you first have to LOVE you!”



Royal Holloway is prized for its international reach due to its vibrant body of students and staff from over 100 countries… Impressive, right? For this reason, it is even more important for us to accept and embrace difference in others, as well as ourselves.

For support on this issue, or to report any instances of hate or discrimination you can contact the BME Network directly via our social media accounts: Instagram: @rhul_bme and Facebook: @rhulbmenetwork, here you can also follow my work as BME Officer and keep up to date with all the events we are running throughout the academic year.

(Photography by Christabel Adansi - @christabel­_adansi)