Colorism is in-group discrimination based on how light a person’s skin color is. Author and activist Alice Walker is widely credited with first using the term, which refers to a byproduct of racism that upholds white-centric standards of beauty and occurs globally. (Think of the market for skin whitening creams, or the criticism of the 2021 movie In the Heights’ lack of visibly dark-skinned Black Latinx characters.) Colorism differs from racism in that it often exists among members of a particular racial or ethnic group, rather than between different groups.
Polling conducted in 2021 by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Latino adults (62 percent) said having darker skin hurts Latinos’ ability to get ahead. Pew also found that Hispanics with darker skin were more likely to report having experienced discrimination such as being called offensive names or being stopped by police unnecessarily. Research has also shown that skin tone can contribute to disparities in educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and prison sentences.
- The Difference Between Racism and Colorism (Time)
- Colorism (National Conference for Community and Justice)
- How digital beauty filters perpetuate colorism (MIT Technology Review)
Colorism is a discriminatory practice in which preferential treatment is determined by the lightness of a person’s skin. It differs from racism in that it often exists among members of a particular racial or ethnic group, rather than between different groups.