According to a new Pew Research Center study, Hispanics with darker skin face greater prejudice and have less chances than those with lighter skin.
Colorism, which experts and scholars have claimed is one of many ways people with lighter skin continue to enjoy unfair benefits, is highlighted in Pew’s National Survey of Latinos, a bilingual, national survey of 3,375 Hispanic U.S. adults conducted in March.
Experts say that while colorism and racism are commonly linked, they are not the same thing. Racism is prejudice directed at members of a particular racial or ethnic group, whereas colorism refers to the degree to which people are discriminated against.
Those who discriminate against others may belong to the same racial or ethnic group as those who discriminate against them.
“They’re both of the same [race or ethnicity], but their skin colours are different, and people may perceive them differently as a result of skin tone,” said Trina Jones, a Duke University law professor.
Jones said that people who are closer to “whiteness” — having more western European phenotypes — are more likely to be privileged while simultaneously being less likely to be discriminated against.
“If you have cultural systems that incorporate conceptions of white racial superiority, anything that approaches that idealised norm… will be seen to be more valued,” Jones explained. “And the further you get away from it, the more trouble you’ll have. As a result, the darker your skin tones are, and the curlier or kinkier your hair is, the less access you’ll have.”
According to Pew, 62 percent of Hispanic individuals believe that having darker complexion hinders their capacity to advance in the United States “as least a bit,” while 59 percent believe that having lighter skin aids their advancement.
In the survey, about 57 percent of Hispanics said their skin colour influences their daily life experiences “a lot or some,” and 64 percent of Hispanics with darker skin said they had personally experienced discrimination in the year prior to the survey, compared to only 54 percent of Hispanics with lighter skin.
According to the Pew survey, Hispanics with darker skin tones were more likely to have been treated unfairly, ridiculed for speaking Spanish, or called insulting insults.
According to Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueas, a clinical psychologist and educator at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, such discrimination has very significant consequences for educational chances, job trajectories, and health-care options. The paucity of portrayal of dark-skinned people in Hollywood and the media has recently been questioned, especially a recent production of “In the Heights.”
“It actually embraces everything,” Chavez-Dueas said, “it has a negative influence on every indicator of physical health, mental health, and access.”
Colorism is significantly connected with worse physical health outcomes, according to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2021. Researchers from Pew discovered that people with darker skin had lower educational achievement and fewer access to health care.
Skin tone has historically been linked to social rank around the world. In Latin America, a hierarchical social system related one’s worth to skin colour and physical traits, according to Chavez-Dueas.
“We’ve been indoctrinated to prefer and perceive lighter-skinned people to be more lovely, to be more attractive,” Chavez-Dueas remarked.
Colorism in the Americas dates back to early colonialism, when conquerors believed that enslaved Black people or Indigenous people were less deserving of opportunity or money because of their hereditary appearance. But it’s a global problem: as Jones points out, the marketing of skin-bleaching therapies is still popular in Asian countries like India.
“Having lighter skin tones and access to white privilege had benefits connected with it in the Americas, as you have this mixed-race population being created in a racialized framework,” Jones said. “These advantages were passed down through the generations.”
According to Chavez-Dueas and Jones, this idealised value of “whiteness” exists today and is a major reason why institutional failures impacting dark-skinned Black and brown people have not been erased.
“Everyone needs to be aware of how it consciously and subconsciously effects their behaviours and decisions,” Jones added.
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