The Cost of Color: What We Pay for Being Black and Brown

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Book Chapter

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Most White Americans believe that racism is on the wane, and that any talk about racial discrimination does more harm than good. This phenomenon is referred to by many social scientists as colorblind racism. Among people of color, colorism, like racism, consists of both overt and covert actions, outright acts of discrimination and subtle cues of disfavor. Darker skin color is associated with more race-conscious views and higher levels of perceived discrimination. A rising number of discrimination cases based on skin tone have found their way to the courts. It is tempting to characterize the problem of colorism as equally difficult for both light-skinned people and dark. Dark-skinned people lack the social and economic capital that light skin provides, and are therefore disadvantaged in education, employment, and housing. Additionally, dark skin is generally not regarded as beautiful, so dark-skinned women often lose out in the dating and marriage markets. On the other side, light-skinned men and women are typically not regarded as legitimate members of the African American or Mexican American communities. Only a slow dismantling of the larger system of White racism, in the U.S. and around the globe, will initiate a change in the color hierarchy it has created.

Chapter of

Racism in the 21st Century


Ronald E. Hall