In the study from professors at San Francisco University, participants were subliminally shown one of two words: “educated” or ‘ignorant.” They then saw photos of Black male faces, along with seven succeeding photos of the same faces with different skin tones from lighter to darker.
Afterwards, participants had to point out the original picture they saw. Those who were primed with the word “educated” had more memory lapses and often chose the lighter-skinned faces instead.
“Black individuals who defy social stereotypes might not challenge social norms sufficiently but rather may be remembered as lighter, perpetuating status quo beliefs,” the study said.
It also noted the storied history of discrimination against darker-skinned Blacks:
Phenotypic features associated with the social categorization of racial groups have been strongly linked to stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Notably, individuals perceived to possess higher levels of Afrocentric features (e.g., dark skin, full lips, wide nose, coarse hair) have been subject to increased negative stereotyping (e.g., alleging heightened levels of aggression, leading to real-world repercussions, such as receiving longer prison sentences for crimes equated for severity and priors.
This bias isn’t just exclusive to Black males, either; it’s also “pervasive across and within diverse ethnic and racial groups, including Whites, Latinos, and Blacks.”
The study used 125 San Francisco State students for its first experiment; the second used 35. All who participated received partial course credit.
Results were also explained as “consistent with the mind’s striving for cognitive consistency or the tendency to attempt to resolve an incompatible cognition in the direction of a stereotype,” meaning participants subconsciously relied on stereotypes that lighter-skinned people are smarter than their darker-skinned counterparts.
D. Channsin Berry, director of the “Dark Girls” documentary, spoke with “NewsOne Now about colorism. He expressed that colorism is something that most races experience. “No one wants to be who they are supposed to be, said Berry. “I’m talking about white women too. In our documentary we talked to white women about being white and some would prefer to be a darker complexion by having suntans that are permanent, having hair extensions… And you have some black women who don’t like what they are and they’re using bleaching creams to become lighter. And this is just not in African American situations, this is a world situation.”