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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 36, 2020

Home: Sanctuary, Shelter, and Justice

Gisela Reyes
Pages 143-152

Clear as Mud
Colorism’s Independence from Racism as a System of Discrimination

Colorism is an enduring system of discrimination that is responsible for many continuing problems in contemporary society. This social phenomenon which allocates social privilege or lack thereof to individuals based on skin color is often reduced to an extension of racism. The present paper argues that colorism is not always reducible to an extension of racism. I proceed as follows. First, I acknowledge the difficulty of distinguishing between colorism and racism due to their modes of discrimination and the operative concepts which inform them. Next, I explore the instances where colorism appears in the absence of racism. Finally, I underscore the importance of being responsibly critical of our interpretations of the social context through an example of how the social context in Mexico is misinterpreted and leads to a mistaken claim about the colorism appearing interpedently of racism. Our social contexts should shape any efforts to mitigate the effects of these systems of discrimination. Therefore, wrongly interpreting our social context would lead us to deploying inadequate practices which we aim at mitigating the effects of either colorism or racism.