Race, Gender, and Skin Tone

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Book Chapter

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Skin tone discrimination, also known as colorism, is a process that privileges light-skinned people of color over dark-skinned people of color in areas such as income, education, criminal justice sentencing, housing, and marriage. Research demonstrates that light-skinned members of the African American and Latino communities are given advantages in these areas, even when controlling for other background variables such as parental education and socioeconomic status. Colorism is directly related to the larger system of institutional racism in the United States and would not exist without it. Women have unique experiences with skin tone stratification because women's physical appearance is scrutinized more closely than is men's in educational settings, job interviews, and the “marriage market.”

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Encyclopedia for Diversity in Education


James A. Banks