Shades of racism

I’d call this "disturbing news", but it’s actually barely newsworthy to those who pay attention to such matters.

A depressing recent study put out by my school, the University of Georgia, reminds us of the many sinister permutations racism and racial preferences continue to take in the real world. 

The preference for lighter skin tone runs so deep, it appears, that lightskinned Blacks without qualifications are more likely to get hired than far more qualified Black men with dark skin. 

We’re talking about men with mere BA’s getting hired over those with MBAs.

The worst part is perhaps that this probably isn’t primarily the result of conscious racism. (How many employers would consciously choose a novice with a BA over a seasoned professional with an MBA?)  It stems from unconscious assumptions about the correlation between skin color and personality characteristics.

Racism is alive and well, and it continues to impoverish the lives of millions. 

Athens, Ga. – Everyone knows about the insidious effects of racism in American society. But when it comes to the workplace, African Americans may face a more complex situation—the effects of their own skin tone.

For the first time, a study indicates that dark-skinned African Americans face a distinct disadvantage when applying for jobs, even if they have resumes superior to lighter-skinned black applicants.

Matthew Harrison, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, presented his research today at the 66th annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Atlanta. Along with his faculty supervisor, Kecia Thomas, a professor of applied psychology and acting director of UGA’s Institute for African American Studies, Harrison undertook the first significant study of “colorism” in the American workplace.

“The findings in this study are, tragically, not too surprising,” said Harrison. “We found that a light-skinned black male can have only a bachelor’s degree and typical work experience and still be preferred over a dark-skinned black male with an MBA and past managerial positions, simply because expectations of the light-skinned black male are much higher, and he doesn’t appear as ‘menacing’ as the darker-skinned male applicant.”

Forgive the utterly random example, but perhaps this explains Haile Berry’s disproportionate visibility in Hollywood?  I mean, her gifts as an actress are so painfully modest, and IMO she’s by no means the prettiest African-American woman on the silver screen today.  Yet she probably gets more attention in popular culture than all other Black actresses combined.

  • University Update

    Shades of racism

  • TM Lutas

    What you’re advertising, in essence, is that you can get good quality MBAs for relative peanuts if you are willing to arbitrage away other people’s racism. Act fast now and get some advantage before self-interest wipes away the opportunity.

  • deb

    HA on the potential opportunities!
    What I think is really weird about this is that it’s FAR from being an American preference. Interculturally and historically, the preference for those of lighter shades is common, and unexplainable. I could explain it for MYSELF, if I should be caught in the act of being guilty of Preferring Folks of Lighter Shades, because those of said lighter shades would look more like me. I could pull the Familiarity Card. I do not, however, have an explanation for, say, a Bangladeshi mom saying to a white American wife: “Why do you even like my son? He’s so DARK.”

  • Sumair

    This is so cool that you posted this!
    because i have noticed the exact same things, well not the job stuff although i can definately understand it.
    For some odd reason, people with darker skin are always hated on, and its not just america which is where i see it most, but in all cultures.
    For example in some african countries that i have noticed, if you are a woman and are darkskinned you are some how less-attractive to the men, and it is seen as better to be lighter skinned.I dont understand, its africa everyones black whats the difference if your lighter or darker?
    And for example in India, a girl is considered more gorgeous if she has lighter eyes and lighter skin. why?
    it makes no sense to me and i really want to figure it out, so if you have any opinions, tell me!!