Today’s New York Times published an interesting article on research about “colorism,” a touchy phenomenon that’s harder than race to discuss.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has included “color” as well as “national origin” as protected categories, and forbids discrimination on those bases. More cases are brought on the basis of alleged race discrimination than any other category. Both studies and experience show that the shade of skin color affects the level of discrimination, or leads to discrimination within the same protected category. This article reports several fascinating but disturbing studies showing the reactions of voters when shown then-candidate Obama with a lighter-skinned then darker-skinned family, and with an African-American mayor whose skin was darkened by photo software for the purpose of a Republican ad.
Courts seem to have difficulty with the concept that a member of one minority group may discriminate against a member of the same group on the basis of “color.” But such discrimination does occur, not just within the African-American community but with Hispanics, and Indians, to mention two. In this kind of discrimination, it may be necessary to educate judge and jury members on the phenomenon as well as the specific language used to point out these inter-category distinction.