The Psycho-Social Impact of Colorism Among African American Women: Crossing the Divide

by Lauren A. Fultz

Institution: Wright State University Professional Psychology Program
Department: School of Professional Psychology
Degree: Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Year: 2014
Keywords: Women's Studies; African American Studies; African Americans; Ethnic Studies; Minority and Ethnic Groups; Psychology; African American women; women; colorism; skin tone discrimination; black psychology; discrimination; racism; womens issues; racial and ethnic attitudes; Blacks
Record ID: 2026031
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=wsupsych1375225026


This study was designed to examine how skin tone discrimination affects African American women. The phenomenon of colorism is not exclusive to African American women, but the manifestations on this group are diverse, and the effects are unique. Previous research has shown that the experience of colorism is pervasive within the Black community and that most African American women have been, either culturally or personally, affected by intra-racial discrimination. This body of work used a focus group to investigate the experiences of African American women who were categorized according to their self ascribed skin tone group. It specifically explored skin tone bias as a three-tiered variable in terms of intra-racial dynamics, including light, brown, and dark skinned women. The experiences of these women were coded into broader themes that depict the experiences of African American women as a function of their skin tone. The findings suggest that women of different hues have unique experiences based on their skin tone, and that these experiences influence how they feel about themselves, and how they interact with others. This research should inform the clinical work of future clinicians engaging with this population. It will hopefully stimulate critical discussions within academic forums that would promote further research and better understanding of this group's dynamics.