Color Stratification

Color stratification has been a part of American History since the days of slavery. During slavery light skinned Blacks were freed earlier than dark skinned Blacks. These lighter slaves were able to obtain education, better jobs, and property due to their white ties. Research has shown that before and during the 1960’s color stratification was still prevalent but due to Black Pride this thought took a change for the better.

Several studies done by Blackwell (1975); Drake and Cayton (1945); Davis, Gardener, and Gardener (1941); Dollard (1957); Frazier (1957a, 1957b, 1966); Myrdal (1944); and Landry (1987) have all stated that in past generations , higher status Blacks tended to have light skin toes than theier lower status darker skin tone counterparts. It is also noted that a lighter skin tone was an important criterion for attaining prestige within the black community.

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Due to this color stratification relies on racism (race as a biological identity instead of social construct) and colorism (system that privileges lighter tones over darker tones within a community; according to Margaret L. Hunter’s “If You’re Light You’re Alright”: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color”. Symbolic interactionism tries to understand stratification by looking at people’s interaction and understandings in their daily lives. Unlike the functionalist and conflict views, it does not try to explain why we have stratification in the first place.

Rather, it examines the differences that stratification makes for people’s lifestyles and their interaction with other people. Samuel L. Jackson and Lawrence Fishbourne had this exchange of words in the Spike Lee movie “School Daze”: Leeds (Samuel L. Jackson): Now I bet you niggers do think y’all white. College don’t mean shit. Y’all niggers, and you gonna be niggers forever… just like us. Niggers. Dap (Lawrence Fishbourne): You’re not niggers. This scene and this movie shows the color stratification between Blacks by using fraternities and sororities as a way of showing how lighter skin tones are better than darker skin tones.

This scene explains the mentality of Black people who view their own people as sellouts because they want to better themselves. These blacks are considered “white” for being educated. It has become a common thing to hear African American males say “I would rather date a light-skinned woman than a dark skinned one. ” Comments like these have affected African Americans in a negative and seemingly irreversible way. African American males are in debate about if light skinned men are “in” again because of rappers such as Drake, J. Cole, or Frank Ocean.

Not only does it affect African Americans but people of African descent who seem to have some sort of thought that beauty is determined by how fair your skin tone is. This sort of thinking comes from our internalized oppression where we believe that anything white is good wile anything black is bad as proven by Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s doll experiments. This other scene shows how much hatred there was between the females in the movie who were of different complexions. Rachel Meadows: [as the “Jiggaboos” and the “Wannabes” encounter each other in the hallway] The word is “Excuse me. Jane Toussaint: No one told you to stand in the hall, either. “Excuse me. ” Rachel Meadows: That’s better, Ms. Thing. Doris Witherspoon: [as Jane turns and flips her hair] It’s not real! Dina: [as the Jiggaboos laugh] Say what? Lizzie Life: You heard Rachel Meadows: It… ain’t… even… real. Jane Toussaint: You wish you had hair like this. Doris Witherspoon: Girl, you know you weren’t even born with blue eyes! Lizzie Life: That’s right. Blue contact lenses. Dina: They’re just jealous! Rachel Meadows: Jealous? Jane Toussaint: Picaninny! Doris Witherspoon: Barbie doll!

Rachel Meadows: High-yellow heifer! Dina: Tar baby! Lizzie Life: Wannabe white! From a symbolic interactionist viewpoint color stratification among blacks is something that they live with everyday because light skinned people are viewed as beautiful. Due to their lighter tones they are able to receive some of the advantages of white privilege but never able to “pull the race card”. Margaret Hunter believes that because lighter tones are associated with beauty and beauty operates as social capital for people especially for females. Some people view the typical dark skinned African American female s loud, annoying, “easy”, lazy, having trust issues, and comes with plenty of past baggage. These notions are stereotypes which are seen in some dark skinned African American females while light skinned females are seen as having class, nice, pure, being the creme de la creme. This is what we perceive and others chase after because these qualities are more appealing. They may not be true but at first glance you feel that they are the best choice. Internalized oppression? Very much so. In my case I am more attracted to light skinned African American females because I do have that feeling that they a prettier than a dark skinned girl.

Me and my half-brother are the only people in my family that have dated lighter complexions and he is married to a light skinned female. But this has just been ingrained in my head by my aunt who lives around white people and tells me how I should act to fit in such as, playing golf, dating light skinned African American female with European features or white females, being able to cook, and going to an ivy league school where white people go to so that one day I can be seen as respected by the “elite”.

The last time I saw my aunt she asked me if I believed that if I lived with her I would have had a white girlfriend or two or a fiancee And it shows because when I tell people that I like going to Montreal they ask why and I usually say because of the sexy French white females; a language I don’t speak but am willing to learn just for them. I have also planned to attend McGill University because just so that I can increase my chances of dating a white woman.

My friend calls me a race traitor because I would rather be with a white woman than a dark skinned African American. From my personal experience I have only dated light skinned women and can’t see myself dating any other kind of skin tone which is bad since I’m looking at only at the surface and could be missing an opportunity at happiness but I’m willing to take that loss and leave it at that. There are some dark skinned females that I do find attractive such as Megan Good; she’s most likely the only one.

Going to MEC causes me to not really say anything about that because most of the females here are dark skinned and they wouldn’t take too kindly to that statement. For me it is the perceptions that come with being with light skinned women. I feel more accepted or that I beat the white people by being able to marry something they had a hand in creating. But as I look around the computer room as I type this I am more attracted to the light skinned Black female in this range shirt than the pretty dark skinned Black next to me. The first thoughts I get from the dark skinned black girl aren’t good ones but the light skinned girl seems more of a safe choice because from the movies I have watched its always the light skinned ones that get hurt and need someone to help them while the dark skinned woman just wants to control. This is not from personal experience just what I grew up believing and still do believe.



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