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A Darker Shade of Pale Revisited: Light-Skinned Negroes, Neo-Mulattoes and Colorism in the 'Post-Racial' Obama Era

25 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2010 Last revised: 26 Mar 2011

Taunya Lovell Banks

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Date Written: August 13, 2010

Abstract

The election of Barak Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States suggests that conventional notions of blackness are being disaggregated. The old hypo-descent rule has lost its power to define who is black and who is not. Today conventional racial designations may be less important than factors like skin tone, especially when combined with traditional tropes of high status whiteness like elite education, stable family structure, high socio-economic status and “command of spoken English.” Further, empirical research suggests that most skin tone bias – colorism – is implicit or unconscious and impacts not only darker-skinned black Americans, but all individuals with darker skin tones, even whites (although to different degrees). Since twentieth century anti-discrimination laws presume that discrimination is explicit and intentional, these laws are ill-equipped to determine when implicitly biased decisions based on skin tone are actionable. This chapter explores whether skin tone, rather than racial classification or racial self- identification, will, in the near future, determine who gets better access to quality education, jobs and real power in America. In other words, whether color, more than old racial classification schemes, matter in the “post-racial” Obama era and, if so, the legal implications of this development.

Keywords: race, colorism, implicit bias, anti-discrimination

Suggested Citation

Banks, Taunya Lovell, A Darker Shade of Pale Revisited: Light-Skinned Negroes, Neo-Mulattoes and Colorism in the 'Post-Racial' Obama Era (August 13, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1658566 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1658566

Taunya Lovell Banks (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

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