Americans rank mixed race people ahead of blacks socially
DETROIT – It is one of the black community’s most pervasive issues, one that held on through slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement: dark skinned vs. light skinned. A recent study shows that people of mixed race are placed below whites socially, but ahead of blacks, adding more fuel to the fire.
A study by Pamela Bennett, an assistant professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, found that multiracial people — such as black-white, Asian-white or Native American-white — fall between blacks and whites in the American social hierarchy.
Bennett also studied the connection between race, residence and socioeconomic status applies to people of multiple races rather than racial minorities.
“For patterns of segregation, taking socioeconomic status into account does not change that picture,” Bennett said. “So while some scholars and activists view official recognition of multiracial identities as a movement toward the deconstruction of race, I caution against such an optimistic narrative for now.”
Bennett also used residential segregation, studying Census numbers from 2000-2010, as an indicator of a social position. Bennett attempted to determine what the segregation of groups from both whites and minorities says about social position.
She found less segregation with people who are mixed black and white when compared to those who identify as fully black. Yet the black-white multiracial people are more segregated than Asian-white or Native American multiracial. Bennett’s full findings will be released once additional census figures are received. The issues of dark vs. light, however, still rages in the black community.
The idea that light-skinned blacks hold a higher standing than dark-skinned blacks is still a large point of contention in the black community. A recent Villanova University study showed that light-skinned black women receive lesser prison sentences than dark-skinned women.
The study, which sampled of over 12,000 black women imprisoned in North Carolina between 1995 and 2009, showed that light-skinned women are sentenced to 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker skinned counterparts. The results also showed that having light skin reduces the actual time served by 11 percent. A 2006 University of Georgia study showed that employers prefer light-skinned black men to dark-skinned men, regardless of their qualifications.
“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,” said Matthew S. Harrison in 2006, then a doctoral student in applied industrial organizational psychology at Georgia.
“This finding is possibly due to the common belief that fair-skinned blacks probably have more similarities with whites than do dark-skinned blacks, which in turn makes whites feel more comfortable around them.”
Harrison found that in black women, credentials did play more of a role. If a dark skinned woman were more qualified, she got the position; however, if all things were equal, it would go to the lighter skinned woman.
In Oct. 2007, a Detroit party promoter caused an uproar when he promoted a party giving free admission to light-skinned women only. Ulysses Barnes — or “DJ Lish” — promoted a party for “Light Skinned Women & All Libras” but promptly cancelled it after women and activists groups protested the party’s premise.
“The celebrated standard of black beauty have been the Lena Hornes of the world,” said Elizabeth Atkins, an author and activist from Detroit. Atkins is also multiracial. “It’s been the fair-skinned, straighter hair, bigger eyes and pointed noses.”
While the days where organizations, including some black fraternities and sororities, used crude methods such as the “paper bag test” have ended, the placement of blacks in American society by their skin tone and grade of hair still remains.
“People have mimicked me to my face (and said) that I talk white or proper,” said Atkins, who holds a master’s degree from Columbia, in 2007. “An ex-boyfriend told me I should talk more black and go to a tanning salon to get darker. Another man told me I should dye my hair brown if I wanted to do business with black people.
“We often face hatred within the race, and it’s more hurtful from your own people than the mainstream.”