Ortiz: Don’t let colorism stop you from enjoying your summer

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Jayla Hodge is the opinion editor of The Rocky Mountain Collegian. 

Summer is approaching, meaning mosquitoes, tank tops and being burned by scorching car seats are on the horizon.


However, it also means the phrase, “Don’t stay out in the sun for too long or you’re gonna get dark,” is going to be said once again.

Being told to stay out of the sun to keep oneself from getting darker is a clear example of colorism. Lighter skin is deemed superior and more beautiful, and action is taken to keep an individual as lighter skinned as possible.

According to Mary-Frances Winters, president and founder of The Winters Group, Inc., “In Latin and South America, light-skin is seen as more attractive. In Mexico and in Brazil, light-skin represents power. Darker-skinned people are more likely to be discriminated against across the globe.”

Historically, having lighter skin meant better treatment. During slavery, slaves with lighter skin were given inside, domestic tasks while darker-skinned slaves were forced to work outside. This was also shown when, in the Americas, mestizos and mulattoes were of higher social ranking than African slaves, Native Americans and indigenous people because they had Spanish blood.

Growing up, I always heard this phrase from my parents, grandparents and even neighbors. My sisters and I were told it was better to go outside and play when it was around 6 p.m., because not only would the air be cooler, but because we also would not have to worry about getting darker.

As a Latin woman, I have light skin that my parents have always deemed beautiful, so they would try to keep me out of the sun so that I wouldn’t turn red — and later brown. My sisters, who both have brown skin, were also kept out of the sun as much as possible because they were already “brown enough,” and my parents didn’t want to risk them getting darker.

This is a phrase that traces many generations back in the Latinx community and other racial minority groups. I remember spending time with my great-grandma in Mexico, and when we had carne asadas in the backyard, piñatas or even went to the park, she looked for a place with shade to not only avoid harmful sun exposure, but also to avoid getting darker. 

“I remember that when I was going to the beach with my family, the narrative was to always wear sunscreen to avoid skin cancer and to avoid getting darker, because it would not look good since I’m already the darkest in my family,” said Génesis Gongora, a higher education graduate student. “I love the sun. Yet, I didn’t get to enjoy it as much because they didn’t want me to be more ‘morenita.'”

Being reminded that dark skin is not seen as beautiful every summer since childhood affects self-love and contributes to the colorism in our society. It has been ingrained in us to believe that white skin is more beautiful than dark skin. 

“As a child, my grandma and some of my family would make my siblings and I come inside or wouldn’t even let us out because they didn’t want us to get darker,” said Jayla Hodge, a fourth year journalism major. “She would make comments like ‘Look how dark y’all look,’ after we came inside to play or from the beach, with a disgusted look.”


There is a difference between staying out of the sun to avoid skin cancer and sunburns and staying out of the sun to avoid getting darker. As summer approaches, enjoy the sun, drink water and participate in every activity the weather has to offer without the fear of getting darker. 

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @Kenia_Ortiz_.