Race: Fear of the Dark.

Weirding out on “Colorism.”

Racism is sadly an almost universal experience.  Some societies have done better than others, but the fact remains that racist attitudes are common in many places.  And there is a pattern that needs explanation:

Why is it that lighter-skinned people tend to look down on darker-skinned people?  Why is it rarely the reverse?  Whether we are talking about Punjabis in India looking down on the darker-skinned Dravidians in the South or lighter-skinned Chinese looking down on the darker people of the south?  Whether in Brazil or Mexico or the USA, or Africa itself, the pattern is the same.  Even within the African-American community, there remains a general preference for light as opposed to dark.  As for politicians, recall Senator Harry Reid’s comment last year that President Obama had a lot going for him because he is “light-skinned.”  And that is at the same time disturbing and intriguing.

One day I was looking at a photo on our refrigerator of a gathering of some friends, and suddenly a theory popped into my head.  Our group was inter-racial, and one of our friends is an African-American who is especially dark.  In the photo, everyone is smiling, happy together, with expressions ranging from delight to anticipation to warm contentedness.  Except for Namon.  In the picture, he’s just too dark to read any expression.  I’m sure he was happy at the time, but to look at the photo, I just can’t tell for sure.

Is that what explains the ubiquitous bias for “light” as opposed to “dark?”

Maybe we’re uncomfortable when it takes a bit longer to “read” someone’s emotions.  Maybe it takes a little longer for “fear of the unknown” to subside, and it affects the way we respond to people.

Just somethng to think about.


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