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Dr. Jeffrianne Wilder, University of North Florida – Skin Color and Racism


In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Jeffrianne Wilder of the University of North Florida explains the continued existence of colorism and skin tone bias within minority communities.

Jeffrianne Wilder is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Florida where her research interests include racial and ethnic Relations, colorism, and the sociology of black Americans. Building on her dissertation that examined the issue of colorism, her current research agenda is actively devoted to examining issues of inequality affecting black women. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Florida.

About Dr. Wilder

Dr. Jeffrianne Wilder – Skin Color and Racism

In the 21st century, there is quite a bit of discussion focused on race matters in our society.  Many scholars explore how racism still negatively impacts minority group populations.  However, there is far less discussion about the issue of colorism—a form of internalized racism found uniquely within communities of color.

As a sociologist and race scholar, I have been studying the continuing significance of colorism within the black community for 17 years.  

Colorism is defined as the unequal treatment and discrimination of individuals belonging to the same racial minority group, and it places differences in skin tone, hair texture, and other phenotypic features.  Traditionally, in the African-American community, lighter skin complexions, European facial features and “good” (or straight) hair have been valued over darker complexions, broader noses, and kinky curly hair.
In my research, I focus on the gendered aspects of colorism, offering an in-depth, sociological exploration of colorism in the lives of black women. I interviewed over 50 young black women about the role of colorism in the everyday lives.  By taking a deeper look inside the stories of the young women in this study, I examine how colorism starts, is maintained, and in some cases transformed.  My findings strongly suggest that skin color indeed matters beyond race, class, and gender. Colorism intersects with many areas of black women’s lives including family, schools, the media, and intimate relationships.

I argue that color matters are central to the broader discussion of race matters in our society.  There is pressing need for more research and more dialogue on this important, yet often-understudied topic.


Production support for the Academic Minute comes from Newman’s Own, giving all profits to charity and pursuing the common good for over 30 years, and from Mount Holyoke College.

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