On January 7th, 2015, the television show Empire took viewers by storm. Empire chronicles Lucious Lyon, a music mogul, attempting to manage all his affairs before his encroaching demise. With its dynamic characters, catchy music, and movie-worthy plots, Empire continued to enthrall audiences for twelve thrilling episodes.

At its core, Empire answers the call for television’s diversity and refreshing ideas. Empire‘s innovation lies in its portrayal of mental illness, the music industry, and the current state of racial identities in the United States.

The passion and desire that characters had for their careers and family translated into the audience members feeling passionate and dedicated toward every episode. It was this dedication that resulted in Empire finishing the season with record-breaking ratings. However, behind the glamour, the seductive characters, Empire dances around the issue of colorism affecting many communities.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with colorism, colorism is the discrimination of individuals based on a darker skin tone. Throughout history, there is a desire to have a lighter skin tone because it has biasedly resulted in individuals having more success than their darker counterparts. The intense desire for a lighter complexion has resulted in societies creating tests like the Paper Bag test or men and women using bleaching crèmes to achieve a fairer complexion.

During the opening scene of Empire, the audience enters Lucious’ luxurious mansion. The maids in Lucious’ home are dark-skinned, overweight women who are dedicated to serving his fairer complexion family. At first it seemed coincidental that the maids had a darker complexion; however, as the first season of Empire progressed, characters of a darker complexion were subservient to lighter characters.

In Empire, the dark skinned characters are the assistants, the maids, and the barbers. Occasionally, they are the right hands, but rarely, are dark-skinned characters placed in a position of authority. Throughout the course of the show, the dark skin characters become dispensable.

Empire encompasses the luxurious and appealing life that fills the music industry. There is no denying that Empire is captivating and has opened the door for encouraging more diversity on network television. However, Empire still adheres to the colorist divide that affects several ethnic groups such African Americans. Now we are left with the question: How do we overcome the colorism present in our shows and movies?

The solution isn’t simply placing dark skin characters in shows and movies. There needs to be a change in the discriminatory standards of beauty, which privileges lighter skin over dark.