No longer an issue of black and white?

September 23, 2008

The color of a person's skin, more than a person's race, is becoming a key cause of racism, according to a new book Racism in the 21st Century co-written and edited by Ronald Hall, associate professor of social work at Michigan State University.

In an era when Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. presidential candidate nominated by a major political party, is running for president, many people still struggle against prejudice and racism. Lighter-skinned blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities often receive preferential treatment over their darker-skinned counterparts in education, housing, employment, and other areas, Hall and his fellow authors argue.

Immigrant workers with lighter skin color make more money on average than those with darker complexions, according to the research of contributor and Vanderbilt University professor Joni Hersch. In addition, the number of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints on skin-color based discrimination are increasing, the book notes. In 2002, the EEOC successfully sued the owners of a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, after the restaurant directed the white manager to hire only light-skinned staff to work in the dining room.

Colorism, discrimination based on skin color, is a centuries-old legacy of Western colonialism, according to Hall.

"Racism is no longer an issue of black and white," said Hall who has researched skin color discrimination for 25 years. "As we move further into the 21st century, with increased levels of interracial marriage, we won't be able to make racial differentiations. You're going to have people, for example, with Asian facial features, African hair texture, and Caucasian skin tones - and that's unprecedented. But the way we'll continue to assess one another, unfortunately, is going to be based on the manifestations of skin color.
Ronald Hall (Ed.)
Racism in the 21st Century
An Empirical Analysis of Skin Color
XIV, 260 p. 9 illus., 2 in color.,
Hardcover $49.95, €34.95, £26.50
ISBN 978-0-387-79097-8


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