The Effects of Skin Tone on the Perception of Discrimination in Young African American Women

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colorism, racism, discrimination, skin tone, young African American women


This research focuses on the discriminatory experiences that young African American women in the American South report as a function of their actual and perceived skin tone. Participants (N = 76) were given the Pantone Skin Tone guide (Pantone, 2017) and asked to find the best color (varying on undertone and lightness) that matched closely to their skin tone. Following that, an experimenter identified participants’ skin tone and they completed several questionnaires assessing perceived racism, discrimination, and self-esteem. Participants reported discrimination and biases that they regularly experience based on their skin tone and race. While qualitative data suggests that colorism does exist, the quantitative data did not establish a link between lightness of one’s skin tone and levels of perceived discrimination. Individuals who reported a high frequency of experiencing racism in their lives also perceived their skin tone darker without the mirror than with it. This finding establishes a link between negative race-based experiences and one’s self-perception of skin tone. While self-esteem did not moderate or mediate the skin tone-discrimination relationship, it was strongly related to reports of racism and colorism.


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Author Biographies

Danielle Stamps

prejudice, discrimination, social identity, and attachment

Elena V. Stepanova, The University of Southern Mississippi

social cognition, specifically conceptualization of social categories, attitudes toward various social groups and cross-cultural research

Jinhao Chi, University of Southern Mississippi

on personalized teaching and learning, mental health screening and improving wellbeing of students and teachers through positive psychology


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How to Cite

Stamps, D., Stepanova, E. V., & Chi, J. (2022). The Effects of Skin Tone on the Perception of Discrimination in Young African American Women. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 9(1), 161–184.



Original Manuscript
Received 2021-08-05
Accepted 2022-01-25
Published 2022-02-25