Among the Latino community, the ill effects of skin tone discrimination or colorism run deep and affect their work and living prospects in the country.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, skin tone discrimination can negatively influence the lives of many Hispanic or Latino citizens who work and live in the United States. And this type of subtle discrimination can not only bring harm and stress to their daily lives but even make their long-term success peril.
The phenomenon of colorism has recently begun to be actively debated among Latino immigrants and advocates, and this led Pew Research Center, a non-partisan organization, to conduct this in-depth study of the subject. This study was conducted by surveying 3,375 Latinos living in the United States.
Colorism is a prevalent form of ethnic or racial discrimination in the immigrant communities
The study revealed that 62% of Latinos state that having a darker skin tone negatively influences their chances of achieving success, while immigrants with lighter skin tones mentioned that their skin color has benefited them one way or another.
One of the reasons that raised awareness on the dangers of colorism was the premiere of the film ‘In the Heights’. The film was heavily criticized for not including dark-skinned Afro-Latino characters. Although racism has been in the foreground of public debate for the last few years, unfortunately, the phenomenon of colorism isn’t often talked about.
Some social scientists explain colorism as a way in which inner divisions among ethnic and racial groups manifest, while others remark that it is a worldwide issue not limited to modern times. And it is much more noticeable in Latin American countries that were colonized by Spain. At that time, having paler complexion was considered superior to having darker skin or indigenous features.
The study developed by Pew indicates that 57% of Latinos surveyed believe their skin tone affects their daily lives, and that the majority of people with darker skin suffer some form of discrimination for this same reason.
A worldwide issue that needs to be addressed
Nadia Y. Flores-Yeffal, a Texas Tech University sociology professor stated that the results of this study are backed by years of research. Research carried out in other Latin American countries showed that in most cases, people with darker skin tones earn less money, suffer more discrimination, and are more vulnerable to expressions of racism or ethnic intolerance than their light-skinned fellow citizens.
In countries like Mexico, people who have indigenous traits are usually underestimated in official surveys or government programs. And Mexicans with darker skin tones usually find that they have fewer possibilities for achieving success.
Flores-Yeffal says that the way dark-skinned people are portrayed in the entertainment industry also influences how we as a society perceive them. And ‘In the Heights’ is not the only film that fails to address this issue. In most American productions we can find Latinos with darker skin only as secondary characters.
For many, talking about colorism is the first step to being able to solve the problem. However, most Latinos do not feel comfortable with the idea of debating internal divisions in their communities.
“You cannot choose one or the other. To combat anti-Latino racism, we need to talk about racism within the Latino community.”
Said Laura E. Gómez, author of “Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism”.
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