Alexandra Shipp’s recent comments on Twitter regarding her role as Storm and colorism reminded me of how much work still needs to be done when it comes to addressing and actively combatting colorism, especially in the entertainment industry. The complicit state of mind that many light skinned women have when it comes to navigating colorism is one that continues to set us back and prevents us from making any sort of significant progress. Fighting colorism isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-man show, just as fighting racism should be an all-inclusive effort. Those with privilege have a duty and responsibility to use said privilege in order to help those who are at the bottom of this hierarchy but that seems to be something that many are reluctant to do and it’s probably because they think it’ll come at the cost them their position at the top. They don’t want equality, they want a system to remain in which they’re the most sought-after group with the most to gain at all times.
It began when a twitter user suggested that the X-Men films do a recast of their characters and actually use a dark skinned actress this time since Storm is originally a dark skinned Black woman and not biracial or light skinned at all. Shipp, like most biracial and light skinned women tend to do, got defensive and went on a spiel about how racist Black people are to their own kind and how she can’t help her skin tone. Cue: eye roll. She referred to the discussion of colorism and her contribution to it as “racism” because she’s not intelligent enough to know the difference between the two.
The kicker is when she boldly stated that “it’s not an actor’s job to help fight against things like colorism and that she would never turn down a role to make others feel comfortable”, and that is the issue that a lot of actors have when it comes to taking roles, especially ones not meant for them. Alexandra Shipp was cast as Storm for X-Men: Apocalypse and gave a less than stellar performance, but this isn’t the first time she blatantly took a role that should’ve been given to someone else. She also starred as Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic that was also a disaster. Aaliyah’s family did not approve of the production of this film but Shipp, who’s also biracial with a white mother, went along with it anyway even after plenty of public pushback.
Halle Berry is also guilty of doing this, as she was cast as Storm in the original X-Men movies. What do her and Shipp have in common? They’re both light skinned and biracial. There are plenty of instances in Hollywood where a light skinned actress will play the role of a character who’s meant to be dark skinned. Why? Because they’re only thinking about their career and acting credits. Their active participation in the erasure of dark skinned women in the media and the dwindling representation that we have seems to be of no concern to them, their allegiance is only with themselves at the end of the day and their actions speak louder than their words ever will.