Skin Color Still Rules

We live in a society (and world it seems) where the spectrum of skin color, from dark to light, is the primary value when judging the acceptability or attractiveness of a person, or even a relationship.

We all know this to be the case when we consider that generally our society judges white as better, or more symbolic of good and positive, than black. (Remember how good guys wear white and bad guys dress in black in our images) But this notion is not just true across ethnic lines, but also makes its presence known within ethnic groups. Hispanics, like blacks, for example, place higher values on lighter skin tones than darker ones. And many of you may be familiar with Dr. Kenneth Clark’s famous experiments in the 50s utilizing black and white dolls, dolls which otherwise looked exactly alike. In his experiment, as well as a highly publicized updated version of it done by a talented high school student recently, black kids overwhelmingly favored the white doll over the black one and actually attributed better attributes to that doll as well, as in the white doll was “nicer.” Sad and somewhat surprising that not much has changed in that regard over nearly 50 years.

This light skin preference also impacts bi-ethnic relationships and children. In general there is less resistance to inter-ethnic relationships when the couple is closer to each other in skin tone. Remember Lucy and Ricky Ricardo didn’t cause any great stir. And still today, for example, often a light-skinned Hispanic with a white will not get the looks that a dark Hispanic with a white will. The same is true for a light-black and a Mexican-American. For some reason the wider the difference in skin tone the harder it is for people.

But this light-dark skin issue even impacts the acceptance of someone identifying themselves as Mixed. For example few question Derk Jeter’s bi-ethnic background or have an issue with him not identifying himself as simply Black. And yet, a Mixed person, let’s say white and black, who happens to be darker in skin tone, often finds much resistance to choosing to label themselves as anything other than Black or African-American. In a way it seems as if people can accept bi-ethnic, and someone choosing that label or some other such label, as long as their skin color is not too dark.

Strange indeed.


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