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Colorism is a hidden form of discrimination. I say hidden because people of color often subconsciously discriminate based on skin color. It is also hidden because this form of discrimination is rarely spoken about. People with lighter skin are often treated superior to those with darker skin. This form of discrimination is a product of racism in the United States. Author, Alice Walker coined the term, colorism. In her book, “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” she describes colorism as a “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” This has unfortunately evolved into generations of Blacks, consciously and subconsciously hating themselves by discriminating against one another based on a skin complexion.
Research on colorism within the African-American community exists. However, it’s rarely discussed because it’s often looked at like the norm. There have been many studies done on this topic. The Clark Doll Experiment is one of the most discussed studies conducted on this subject. This experiment was done by Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The Clark Doll experiments was an experiment that dealt with race and how children identify it at a young age. The results that came from it were not only shocking but also heartbreaking.
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Even today, some people who are lighter-skinned consider themselves superior to (and more attractive than) darker-skinned African-Americans. Filmmaker, Spike Lee, touched on this problem in his film School Daze. Where he exposed the problems between light and dark skinned students attending a historically black college. One famous scene from the movie involves two groups of women, one group light skinned, and the other dark skinned, as they argue in a hair salon about which group has “good” hair. Both groups of women use insulting words to describe each which shows how ignorance is prevalent even within one’s own race. Before Lee touched on the subject it was a topic that was swept under the rug. However, due to his influence the problem was brought to the forefront.
In 2006 at the University of Georgia, student Matthew S. Harrison held a study based on colorism. The study pointed out that light-skinned black men had an advantage when it came to hiring opposed to dark-skinned black men, regardless of credentials.
He surveyed 240 undergraduates. Out of those surveyed 72 percent were female and 87.5 percent of them were white. Students were asked to rate one of the two resumes that accompanied one of three photographs of a theoretical black job applicant whose skin color was light, medium or dark.
‘We found that a light-skinned black male can have only a bachelor’s degree and typical work experience and still be preferred over a dark-skinned black male with an MBA and past managerial positions,’ says Matthew S. Harrison.
Another study conducted on this topic revealed that people tend to associate positive attributes with lighter skin tones. Students were shown the words “educated” or “ignorant”. They were then shown a picture of man. The researchers also showed the students six other pictures of the man. Three of the photos were darker and three were light. When shown the word “educated” the students were more likely to recall the photos with the lighter complexion than the ones that they were originally shown.
A similar study was led using images of former President Obama with photo shopped skin tones. People who agreed with his political views selected images of him with lighter skin. People who disagreed with his views lean towards the images of him with darker skin.
My method of conducting a study based on colorism in the Black community would be to give students in schools located in urban communities’ anonymous surveys. I would be particularly interested in conducting this study with students from grades ninth through twelfth. I chose this age demographic because I feel that students in these grades a greatly influenced by outside factors such as television, social media and their peers.
Each student would be handed a questionnaire. The questions would intertwine with their own possible thoughts as well as society’s thoughts. For example, some of the questions would be: Who is your celebrity crush? Is this person light skinned or dark skinned? What celebrity is least attractive to you? If this person was darker or lighter would they be better looking to you?
To further I hope my study shows that people tend to associate positive attributes with lighter skin tones.
The questionnaires would then be read aloud. Due to them being anonymous the students wouldn’t have to worry about their identities being tied to their responses. However, by me reading their answers aloud I believe it would help the students to understand and hear how bizarre some of their answers might be. After this is done I would ask them if they know what colorism is and means. After a few responses I would give them the accurate definition of colorism and explain the origin. This would hopefully open up an educated and healthy discussion on the topic. With these results I hope it helps to show how colorism has negatively impacted our community (especially our youth) and has caused a huge divide amongst people of the same race.
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