Shanya Hayes | In Her Own Voice

Monday, November 28, 2016
Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Shanya Hayes is going places. While many students her age spend their summer vacations doing anything but school work, this bright young scholar has been staking out her future. And as her ambition leads her toward new understandings, she’s learning more about what her journey might entail as a young Black woman growing up in a society still deeply marked by bias and its profound but not always visible effects.  ​A junior at Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina, Shanya is a participant in the Scholars to College program at the Emily K Center. As part of its mission to develop student leaders and break the cycle of poverty, this nonprofit organization provides college readiness programming and other services to academically-focused students with financial need. Through this holistic college-readiness program, Shanya enjoys weekly small-group instruction and one-on-one guidance during the school year, and she is engaged in academic, leadership, and career-related enrichment activities over the summer.

As part of her enrichment activities this past summer, Shanya participated in the Young Scholars Summer Research Institute, an initiative of the Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, which engages its young participants in “the study of the causes and consequences of inequality. Shanya’s interests led her to research a topic that was new to her as a concept but, as she would discover, was something she had already seen and experienced: colorism.

“Colorism is skin-tone bias, which is basically racial inequalities within race, with the idea that being lighter is better, within all races,” Shanya explains.

Shanya grew up seeing this biased attitude at school and in social media but did not know that it was colorism, per se, or that it has such a far-reaching effect on people’s lives – for both women and men, and across all races.

“I see it a lot within teenagers in Durham…Just hearing boys say they would never date a dark-skinned girl just for the simple fact that she is a dark-skinned girl, and just hearing the bad connotations that come along with being dark-skinned and the good connotations that come along with being light-skinned.”

Read the full article and interview: