Richmond woman fights ‘colorism’ within African American community

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- It is not a new struggle within the African American community, but it is coming to light in the wake of one Richmond woman's appearance on CNN. 

Kiara Lee is a 2012 graduate from the University of Richmond and is fighting "colorism" within her African American Community.

Colorism is when African Americans bully or ridicule other African Americans because of the color of their skin.

Several African Americans said it is a scarring experience, especially in school.

"I think a lot of dark skin women feel that if you are not light skinned then you are not pretty," Tyrisha Hilton, an African American VCU student, told CBS 6.

Lee has conducted several workshops in after school care programs and churches in the Richmond area.

She uses "the paper bag test," rewarding lighter skinned students with cupcakes and seats in front of the class while putting darker skinned students in the back.

While it is controversial, she says it is the only way to end the stereotype.

"I did it as a learning expierence to show them when we put people down this is how it feels," Lee said.

Lee was recently featured in an interview with Soledad O'Brien for her series "Black in America."

Colorism dates back to the slavery era in the United States. In some cultures, like India and Central America, it is common for many to bleach their skin.

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