While most scholarship suggests that the terms “shadeism” and “colourism” can be used interchangeably and “colourism” may arguably be more prevalent, it is worth listing both terms as each have slightly different implications. “Shadeism” has been described as a type of intraracial discrimination where the darkness of one’s skin, and thus proximity to whiteness, influences access to social power and privilege. Much like colourism, this skin-tone bias is a result of colonialism and white supremacy and has lasting social, emotional, and political consequences in communities worldwide. As director and filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah describes when justifying the title for her short 2010 documentary Shadeism, “it really is more than just colour.” Thiyagarajah asserts that “shadeism” suggests more nuance between the different shades within a specific skin colour and thus was better suited to describe her experience with discrimination. For more, please see CBC Radio, Estrada, MacInnes-Rae, Pitas.

Sources and Further Reading:

Bagalini, Adwoa. “Colourism: How Skin-Tone Bias Affects Racial Equality at Work.” World Economic Forum, 26 Aug. 2020,

Estrada, Meera. “‘Shadeism’ is the Dark Side of Discrimination We Ignore.” Global News, 24 May 2019,

Pitas, Jeannine M. “Resisting Shadeism: An Interview with Nayani Thiyagarajah.” Rabble, 24 Feb. 2014,

MacInnes-Rae, Rick. “Shadeism: Filmmaker Looks at Discrimination Among People of Colour.” CBC News, 29 June 2014,

Thiyagarajah, Nayani. “Shadeism.” Interview by Rick MacInnes-Rae. CBC Radio, 29 June 2014, Interview.

Thiyagarajah, Nayani. “Shadeism.” Vimeo, uploaded by shade ism, 2010,