Sister Circle, an organization at American University dedicated to cultivating conversations about health, hosted an online discussion on April 14 centered around topics such as colorism, texturism, featurism and how they affect relationships.
Conversations Understanding Relationships, Love, & Sex (C.U.R.L.S.), was hosted by Donna Oriowo, a first-generation Nigerian American, author of “Cocoa Butter & Hair Grease: A Self Love Journey Through Hair and Skin” and a sex and relationship therapist in the D.C. area. The event was also in partnership with the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center and Student Health Center.
The 90-minute talk started with an icebreaker to bring the participants together and progressed into conversations surrounding colorism and texturism. The discussion examined how society upholds anti-Blackness and white supremacy simultaneously.
Deborah Tadesse, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that she loved how freely and passionately her peers spoke about these issues.
“Going to this event allowed me to see that there is a community for me where I could have these shared experiences,” Tadesse said. “I’ll absolutely be on the lookout for events such as this one in the future.”
They discussed how society has preferences for lighter skin tones and how textured hair conjures negative connotations compared to straighter hair.
The talk also looked at how these “messages” are learned at a young age, particularly by young girls. “The average age a girl learns what their skin tone and hair texture means is at age 5,” Oriowo said. “Now it’s looking more like 4 to 5 years old.”
Oriowo also discussed fetishization and stereotypes of races based on skin tone and hair texture, and it prompted a discussion about how these messages are part of our subconsciousness.
“We ask the ‘what are you?’ question more than we think,” Oriowo said. “What we don’t realize is that we ask this so racism knows how to treat you.”