There are many assumptions about Africa, with one of them being that the country has a relatively homogenous population. This proves false as Africa is the second largest continent in the world with the most genetic diversity. There are also at least 3,000 ethnic groups and 2,000 languages spoken as well. Diversity in Cape Verde was evident from the beginning of our arrival. There are men and women with a variety of hair textures and skin tones of different hues of brown. There is also a number of immigrants from other African countries including Senegal and Guinea Bissau that add to the diversity of Cape Verde.
Because of Cape Verde’s history of colonization, it was interesting to see the ethnic breakdown of the population. About 71% of Cape Verdes are Creole or Mulatto; mixed with generations of African slaves and Portuguese colonizers. The other 28% of Cape Verdeans have predominately African ancestry and can trace their roots to the settlement of different African groups. The remaining 1% are Portuguese or European immigrants.
After receiving knowledge of the ethnic breakdown of Cape Verde, our tour guide expressed that colorism is still a major issue in Cape Verde. He continued to say that colorism primarily takes place in Cape Verde in the form of relationships, where it is frowned upon and discouraged for a person of a lighter complexion to be with a person of a darker hue. Colorism is a form of racial discrimination based on the shade of an individual’s skin tone that typically favors lighter skin. In the United States, colorism proves to be a major issue in all social avenues, the workplace, and even colloquial interactions.
I found the manifestation of colorism in Cape Verde to be quite interesting as the majority of people share the same phenotypical appearance. Most Cape Verdeans that we have seen in passing are of a medium-brown hue with looser hair textures. Shade discrimination in Cape Verde occurs when the majority of citizens of lighter hues reject the minority of citizens of darker hues in some shape, way, or form. In the states, colorism occurs on a more complex scale between the lightest, middle, and darker shades of brown. Within each sub-shade range, there is a preference for a lighter hue. With the majority of Cape Verdeans being of the middle shade-range, the preference of a lighter shade still exists, but it is more so centered around the rejection and pushback of darker skin tones. There is also some pushback ethnically speaking, as many Cape Verdeans refer to the rest of the African continent as their “African brothers and sisters” but often times do not consider themselves to be African.
Colonialism as a whole is responsible for the rise of colorism. In the case of Cape Verde, it is likely that colorism manifests because many people desire to be seen as if they are more Portuguese than they are of African descent. Therefore, it’s not surprising to hear Africa referenced as a separate culture. In the states, colorism formed gradually as a result of slavery, with lighter slaves receiving privileges over darker slaves. Overall, colorism is a divisive system that prevents the black community from thriving at its full potential. Every complexion and ethnicity should be celebrated so that the world may know the true meaning of black excellence from a united front.