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Colorism and socioeconomic status


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Published in: Economy & Finance
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Colorism and socioeconomic status

  1. 1. COLORISM & SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS Do cultures really favor one skin color over another when it comes to socioeconomic status?
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION Colorism is a persistent problem for people of color . Colorism, or skin color stratification, is a process that privileges light-skinned people of color over dark in areas such as income, education, housing, and the marriage market. Research demonstrates that light-skinned people have clear advantages in these areas, even when controlling for other background variables. However, dark-skinned people of color are typically regarded as more ethnically authentic or legitimate than light- skinned people. Colorism is directly related to the larger system of racism around the world. The color complex is also exported around the globe and helps to sustain the multibillion-dollar skin bleaching and cosmetic surgery industries.
  4. 4. COLORISM VS. RACISM The term "colorism“ describes the system that privileges the lighter skinned over the darker-skinned people. Although I have differentiated racism and colorism, these processes are completely interconnected. The connection between racism and colorism is evidenced in the fact that colorism would likely not exist without racism, because colorism rests on the privileging of whiteness in terms of phenotype, aesthetics, and culture. However, it is also useful to see these two processes as distinct because people of color may experience racism in different ways depending on the color of their skin.
  5. 5. SKIN COLOR & CLASS Skin color functioned as an indicator of socioeconomic status. In Vietnam, lighter skin indicated privileged status in the same way that lighter skin once served as a sign of upper-class status in various parts of Europe and the United States. Importantly, the connection between skin color and class status not only exists in Vietnam, it appears elsewhere in Asia. Sociologist Evelyn Nakano Glenn reports that, “Japan has long idolized ivory-skin that is ‘like a boiled egg’— soft, white and smooth on the surface.” She suggests that this preference has historical roots dating at least to the mid nineteenth century when upper-class Japanese men and women donned white-lead powder makeup to indicate their elite status. In almost every country in Asia, the celebrity class, and especially movie stars, are noticeably lighter and taller, with more angular features, than the general population. Importantly, while concluding that “colorism in Asia is a class imperative . . . to be light is to be rich.
  7. 7. SKIN COLOR & NATIONAL ORIGIN While skin color is an indicator of socioeconomic class, it may also be a marker of national origin or ancestry. People use skin color as a way of differentiating among Asians and Asian Americans (i.e., to identify who is of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Laotian, and South Asian ancestry or origin). Awareness of this additional use of skin color is important. Severe gaps in income, educational attainment, and professional status are emerging between White Asians (Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Chinese) and those who are more likely to be darker and among the Collective Black (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotians).
  9. 9. COLORISM IN THE WORKPLACE Colorism has significant implications in the workplace. White skin is associated with higher levels of competence and ability. For males, a darker-skinned Black male with higher levels of education and past work experience was significantly less preferred than a lighter-skinned Black male with less education and work experience. For females, skin tone was not as salient as education and work experience, but when held constant, skin tone was a determining factor in regard to preference where the lighter-skinned female was preferred. The preferential treatment found in the workplace for Black males and females is quite disturbing.
  10. 10. OBSERVATIONS & CONCLUSIONS Skin color is a significant aspect of Asian and Asian-American identity, one that may be used to further intragroup divisions and hierarchies. skin color gets its meaning from race and indeed that colorism is primarily a subset of racism. To be sure, the likelihood that skin color differences assume greater significance in places like South Asia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where the effects of European imperialism are perhaps most keenly felt, suggests that race and racist ideologies play an important role in creating a desire for lighter skin in these areas. However, preferences for lighter skin also exist in Japan, China, and other parts of Asia. The practices of colorism tend to favor lighter skin over darker skin. For example, it has been shown that lighter-skinned minorities, particularly blacks and Latinos, attain a higher educational level and a higher workforce status than darker-skinned minorities. Colorism continues to be a significant social phenomenon. It affects access to social power and denies equality to those who are nonwhite.
  11. 11. REFERENCES • • • • •