Colorism:”is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. In the African-American community, this traditionally played out via the paper bag test. Those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. The Spike Lee film “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism.”  ~ About.com

I just read a post by a light skin Black author who summed up her article by saying after all we are all Black. Yes, we are all Black. Its pretty convenient to say when you want a kumbaya moment.

I first want to acknowledge, that you as a Black person probably have dealt with racism. However, light skin Blacks and dark skin Blacks  experiences with racism are quite different. Light skin privilege is real and I have studies to prove it.

I am going to post on the very tricky issue of Black light skin privilege. Yep, its going to have folks in a tizzy and their panties in knots but I do not care. Unlike those who won’t admit that black people of a lighter hue benefit from light skin privilege, I will. Light skin Blacks who do not acknowledge it are doing what racists White people do when they claim that we are all treated the same, that racism no longer exist or that they don’t see color. You are pretty much disregarding your darker brother and sisters experience.  Here is a wake up call. No, we are not treated all the same. Dark skin blacks not only have to deal with racism but intraracism too.

There are structures within the Black community itself that have historically worked to benefit people of a lighter hue. Spike Lee’s “School Daze” movie touched on it. Some of America’s oldest historic Black organizations participated in colorism. Historically Black sororities and fraternities had paper bag tests. Yes, THEY DID!  If you were too dark skin, your application to join could have been denied simply because of your hue. The NAACP was a very colorist organization. The NAACP wanted only light skin receptionists. But please remember, the NAACP was not the only one.

Study after study and article after article shows that light skin privilege is real:

Pittsburg Post Gazette – Documentary, studies renew debate about skin color’s impact

In a December 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article it points to a University of Georgia study that 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, a University of Georgia doctoral student in applied industrial organizational psychology, who presented his research in August to the Academy of Management in Atlanta.” For female applicants, “If the credentials were different, in the case of women, the more qualified or experienced darker-skinned woman got it, but if the qualifications were identical, the lighter-skinned woman was preferred,” Mr. Harrison said.”The article went on to point out that, “Dr. Frisby asked 79 female college students — 45 white women and 34 black women ages 18 to 28 — to evaluate the photographs, which they thought were for an upcoming ad campaign. And 78 of the 79 women chose the light brown skin tone as more attractive.” For more information, click here.

The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders, by Jill Viglione, Lance Hannon, and Robert DeFina of Villanova University:  “With regard to prison sentences, their results indicated that women deemed to have light skin are sentenced to approximately 12% less time behind bars than their darker skinned counterparts. The results also show that having light skin reduces the actual time served by approximately 11%.” For more information, click here.

  • Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters by Evelyn Glenn http://bit.ly/xBfIrd
  • Brits believe mixed-race people are the ‘most attractive and successful’ Daily Mail
  • Americans rank mixed race people ahead of blacks socially  The Grio-
  • All the Dark-Skinned Stars in ‘Precious’ Are Bad. All the Light…  The Root
  • The Legacy of the Brown Paper Bag The Hilltop
  • The Paper Bag Test  The Hilltop
  • Who is Black? One Nations Definition PBS
  • Blue Vein Society    InDie GoGo
  • Colorism: Black on Black Racism The Washington Post
  • Shades of Black Personal Stories of Colorism and Privilege Columbia University
  • Skin-Deep Discrimination  ABC News
  • Do light-skinned Black people have an advantage? Yes. They are likely to get hired first and may earn more money  Ebony


Study: Light-Skin Blacks Preferred Over Dark-Skin Ones The Grio

The study, which sampled over 12,000 black women imprisoned in North Carolina between 1995 and 2009, showed that light-skinned women were sentenced to 12 percent less time behind barsthan their darker-skinned counterparts. The results also showed that having light skin reduces the actual time served by 11 percent.

Even employers seem to prefer the lighter-skin blacks among us:

A 2006 University of Georgia study showed that employers prefer light-skinned black men to dark-skinned men, regardless of their qualifications. 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,” said Matthew S. Harrison in 2006, then a doctoral student in applied industrial organizational psychology at Georgia.

But when it is not mainstream society (code words for white folks), it is people within our own community making light of our historical pain:

In Oct. 2007, a Detroit party promoter caused an uproar when he promoted a party giving free admission to light-skinned women only. Ulysses Barnes — or “DJ Lish” — promoted a party for “Light Skinned Women & All Libras” but promptly cancelled it after women and activist groups protested the party’s premise.”

Yes, you may have been told you are not Black enough by Blacks and you have every right to complain. But you will not be taken seriously until you have acknowledged the benefits of light skin privilege. Once you do it is your duty to call it out when it happens. When we discuss White Privilege many African Americans are quick to say that the only time White privilege will end is when White people address it. Well I am asking light skin Blacks to do the same.

Here is a list of light skin privileges using the studies I cited above (feel free to disagree):

  1. Having the ability to deny or not acknowledge that colorism exists.
  2. Be recognized as a symbol of post racism.
  3. It is assumed that you are race neutral when issues of race are raised.
  4. Being standard of beauty in the Black and Latino community.
  5. Being called Black based on the antebellum era one drop rule.
  6. Being racially ambiguous.
  7. People automatically assuming you are mixed and it is seen as a positive attribute.
  8. It is automatically assumed that you are more intelligent than the darker members of your racial group.
  9. Not being seen as angry unlike the darker members of your racial group.
  10. Being considered less threatening by the Eurocentric mainstream based on the color of your skin.
  11. People not making the assumption that you grew up poor unlike your dark skin counterparts.
  12. Being allowed to recognize the variety of your racial/ethnic heritage without ridicule.
  13. Within African American culture being called a “redbone” is regarded as a compliment while being called “darkskin” is considered derogatory.
  14. Having someone tell you that your light skin is better than dark skin.
  15. Can color, dye, relax, or weave your hair without it being seen as an act of self-hate.
  16. The assumption that your relaxed hair and chemically processed curls are your natural texture.
  17. Not being told that, “You are pretty for a dark skin girl.”
  18. Your skin color being valued by some who purposely wants to erase their ethnicity and hates their own skin color.
  19. Taking advantage of skin color privilege depending upon the situation. For example, applying for scholarships for African Americans and Latinos and later passing for other than a minority.
  20. You have a better chance of landing a job than a darker person with the same credentials.
  21. You have better opportunities for education and jobs prospects.
  22. Because of your light skin your relatives may of have had access to Black sororities, fraternities, and other organizations that promoted intraracism.
  23. Your images are reflected in all forms of the Black and Latino owned media.
  24. People who look like you rarely portray the stereotypical maid, downtrodden, Sapphire, and dysfunctional Black women roles on television.
  25. You always play the Black and Latino wife on television.
  26. Being able to be biracial, multiracial, or light skin and still play a Black, Asian, Latino and White person on television when people of a darker hue cannot.
  27. Not having people in entertainment making songs or comments disrespecting your skin color.
  28. If you are light skin Latino you don’t have to prove it.
  29. If you are a light skin Latino it is automatically assumed that you speak Spanish.
  30. You or your family have much more likely have immigrated to America leaving your darker skin counterparts behind.

More articles

CNN’s Don Lemon: “Anchors of Color on Television Are Light-Skinned”

AfricaSpeaks.com – Dialogue on Colorism - Part 1