Akilah Beasley

USA, African and the World History WISE 202

February 27, 2010

Research Proposal for

“If You’re Light You’re Right: Colorism and the Social Interactions between Light and Dark Skinned African Americans”

Colorism is an extremely controversial fixation that has poisoned the minds of African Americans for centuries. Changes in the ways that blacks interact with each other in society are the consequences of colorism. African Americans have learned to put emphasis on the skin color of the people belonging to their own race; they make divisions in their race based on those skin colors and associate stereotypes with each party. The largest, most profound division is between light skinned and dark skinned African Americans. Both groups have been rivals since the days of slavery; scholars argue that the conditions that African Americans faced during slavery were the factors that initiated the phenomenon of colorism. Races where mixed during slavery creating a new type of African American—one who has lighter skin and fine textured hair. These new looking Negros resembled their European oppressors more so than the traditional, more African looking slave—they were favored for this reason and treated better than the African looking slave. The distinction between lighter and darker slaves sparked a sense of envy inside of the race, which in turn destroyed the unity within the Black community. This predicament has continued to flourish throughout history—this research paper will highlight different aspects of colorism and ways that this obstruction has changed the conditions of interactions between African Americans in contemporary society. It will also propose a solution to the conflicts that influences colorism.

There are many sources that will act as assistants in developing the answer to the research question, including videos from YouTube, books, journal articles, and surveys. The first source is a book entitled Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues, it is written by Jim A. Kuypers.  This source explains the biases that exist in the media as far as the appearance of one’s exterior. It explains the struggle that exists between people with light and dark skin tones; it is believed that mainstream America accepts those whose skin is lightly colored as opposed to those with dark skin. This belief is one that has affected the African American community greatly—dividing the light skinned blacks and the dark skinned blacks; each group continues to prove who is better.

The next source is a book called African American Fraternities and Sororities: the Legacy and the Vision; this book was written by Tamara L. Brown, Gregory Parks and Clarenda M. Phillips. This source explains how it was for African Americans to join certain Sororities and Fraternities. It was a requirement to take a brown paper bag test to join certain groups; if you were darker then a brown paper bag you were not permitted into certain groups. This heightened to division between light and dark skinned people. This same test was given to blacks in many professional settings for example their job, school, etc. This degree of discrimination was present during the times of slavery—maybe the conditions of slavery influenced the ways that blacks interacted with each other in the future.

The next source is a journal article written by Trina Jones called “Shades of Brown: The Law of Skin Color,” this article appeared in the Duke Law Journal Vol. 49, No. 6 (2000): 1487-1557.This source explores the discrimination that occurs inside of certain races, particularly African Americans. It highlights certain stereotypes that are associated with one side of the skin tone spectrum. Certain aspects of life were skin color is considered is evaluated as well; the animosity that currently exists between the two groups is also highlighted and paralleled to the animosity that existed between them during the times of slavery.

The next source is also a journal entry, it is called “’If you’re Light you’re Alright’: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color,” it is written by Margaret L. Hunter. This article appears in Gender and Society Vol. 16, No. 2 (2002): 175-193. This source looks at the scenario from a dark skin woman’s perspective. It focuses on the perks that light skinned women get in society. Darker women are often looking down upon; this journal article gives insight to this aspect of the scenario. Although this source may be bias, it shows how things are different for darker women in society.

This research paper will analyze race, culture and gender; colorism is evident in the African American race and it is also part of their culture—it also affects women more so than it affects men. The paper will analyze each of those historic aspects.