Thursday, February 25, 2021

Dr. Ron Hall: The Colorism Conversation … Still an Issue in the African-American Community

ronald hall
Dr. Ronald E. Hall, Ph.D.

“Light Girls,” the sequel to Bill Duke’s 2011 documentary “Dark Girls” has sparked ongoing conversation in the African-American community.  Both films examine “colorism,” or discrimination based on skin color, within communities of color.

Dr. Ronald E. Hall, Ph.D., an internationally recognized commentator on the African-American experience and a Professor at the School of Social Work, Michigan State University, was featured briefly in the “Light Girls” documentary, and he still has a lot to say about the subject.

“Issues of skin color are problematic. What I didn’t know is the extreme,” says Dr. Hall.

The doctor is a well-known expert on the issue and has a Skin Color Clinic Library of resources for researchers, students, faculty, and professionals who wish to enhance their professional knowledge about skin color issues. The journal articles and books found in the library include resources for the preparation of grant projects, theses, and dissertations.

Colorism is defined as the prejudices people face based on the lightness or darkness of their skin tone.   While some think it only affects dark skinned blacks, light-skinned blacks experience colorism too.   In fact, it is not just an issue in America, its goes on globally.  Both dark-skinned and light-skinned men and women often struggle with being accepted within their own community.   However, some people seem to think that ‘light skin’ women do not experience issues with their skin tone and that they actually receive benefits from having lighter skin.  Light-skinned women experience troubling acts or hateful acts directed toward them just as dark-skinned women do from others within their own race and they often have to deal with name calling (‘high yellow’, ‘lite brite’  “Red Bone”)  and hurtful comments such as ‘you’re stuck up’, ‘bourgeois’ , ‘you’re not black’ or ‘black enough.’

ron hall

In a recent interview, Dr. Hall explains how colorism manifests in the caste systems, discrimination and unequal access to social and economic mobility based on skin color.

“Lighter skin versus dark skin acceptance issues is a deep issue,” says Hall.

Growing up, he recalls how light versus dark played out in his own community.

“The lighter complexion tended to be the more secured financially. The darker complexioned blacks came from single family homes and they were more likely to be less secured financially and less likely to be more academically inclined,” says Dr. Hall.

“We need to take control of how skin color is interpreted.  We don’t have to buy into Eurocentric terms or norm.  Every opportunity, you get an opportunity to celebrate diversity in the community. W e should celebrate it.”

He thinks the problem will eventually be fixed and that it is a process that we have to go through.

“Beauty is not universally defined. It changes over time, over geography, from country to country. In some African Countries, heavy women are idolized as beautiful, but here it’s the smaller woman,” says Hall.  “Unless you take the initiative to control your own standards of beauty, you’re going to internalize alien norms,” he says.

Although some people argue that ‘light girls’ had it better during slavery, Dr. Hall says light skin women probably had it worst because light skin women got it from the master and the master’s wife.

“Light skins go through a lot of pain,” says Dr. Hall.  “We just haven’t acknowledged the pain that light skins experience.  It’s the same thing that went on during the anti-bellum that’s going on today.”

Even dark skinned women in Africa have internalized alien norms, and they have bought into bleaching their skin. In Jamaica, women have taken it a step further.

“We have internalized these alien norms to the extent that we will jeopardize the welfare of unborn children,” says Hall.

Currently working on his latest book, “The Bleaching Syndrome,” Dr. Hall has been featured in Time magazine, BET, CNN and has appeared frequently on NPR. He is the co-author of the groundbreaking book, ‘The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium and the editor of Racism in the 21st Century: An Empirical Analysis of Skin Color.”

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Dr. Ron Hall: The Colorism Conversation … Still an Issue in the African-American Community



  1. I have discovered an interesting phenomenon about light v. dark skin and it’s relationship to racism, class, economics and culture. For some reason that I cannot quite figure out, blacks or African Americans, if you prefer, either, will not or cannot be truthful with themselves and each other about light skin and dark skin. Maybe it’s the pain of rejection or self hatred or the wounds of slavery and continued oppression from whites that is responsible for this, but whatever it is, this subject is always skimmed over without directly making any valid points. Blacks (African Americans) seem to want to just mention it because they know that it has to be considered when dealing with oppression and repression, but they still do not want to talk about it which would be the first step in the healing process for us collectively. I have already done it personally, but I am only 1 person. For the record, I am dark skinned & beautiful, my skin tone is the color of hersheys milk chocolate.

    “I’m Black and I’m proud!”
    Cheryl L. Theriot

  2. I, too, am Black … a Hershey’s kiss … I, too, am proud … and will never call myself an African American … probably because I was never colored … I never avoid the sun … I have darker complexioned friends who do; they avoid wearing certain colors … because they have been tricked to believe that their skin tone is not as acceptable as those of lighter complexions … they use bleaching cream … perm their hair, wear extensions and wigs and weaves … because they cannot love themselves as they are; meanwhile I can’t love myself any more for what God gave me and refuse to change a thing … my hair flows down my back in its natural state, no physical or chemical changes, no additives, no colors … my parents taught their girls to love and celebrate themselves as God made them and I am so glad … I remember how, back in the day, all the guys went after the light-skinned girls … I had my share of suitors, dark as I am … and every light-skinned friend I had always said they wished they had my complexion … and asked if I ever wished I were lighter … of course told them no , and to learn to love the skin you’re in … some people will probably always suffer with the color-struck syndrome, and yes, the world is likely to continue to lean favorably towards the lighter shades of Black people – I promise to remain unaffected, as should person of color …

  3. The Black Church has always professed its love for Jesus, but most
    have prayed to a false white image which has been the underpinning
    of white supremacy. The issue of colorism among people of color
    globally is rooted in this white Jesus lie. To deal head on with
    this persistent and pervasive issue, we must first acknowledge and
    embrace the biblical scientific and geographic proof that Jesus was
    a dark skin man of color. Once this image is in our churches, we and
    the rest of humanity will start to look at dark skin differently.

    If my color didn’t matter why has truth been hidden and denied despite
    biblical, scientific and geographic proof?
    This Truth Will Set You Free!


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