Sunday, July 1, 2007

Skin color and mating preferences among African-Americans

Black College Wire has recently run a piece on skin color and mating preferences among African Americans, including a reference to one of my publications:

A majority of African American students polled at a Midwestern university say lighter complexions are more attractive than darker ones, according to a study conducted by researchers from two Louisiana schools.

The results, taken from a sample of 100 students, indicated that 96 percent of the men preferred a medium to light complexion in women while 70 percent of women found light skin of value in men.

This latest analysis of mating preferences explored a number of probable causes, all of which were rooted in the "colorism" prevalent from slavery through the 1960s, where lighter skin typically meant more privilege. The results were published in 2006 in the journal Race, Gender and Class.

Ashraf Esmail, a sociology and criminal justice professor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, and Jas M. Sullivan, an assistant professor of political science and African American Studies at Louisiana State University, conducted the study.

According to Sullivan, its purpose was to test whether the color line continues to be a problem for the African American community.

... In the 2005 book "Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Color Prejudice," Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost reports that lighter women were preferred in medieval Japan, Aztec Mexico and Moorish Spain, even before there was significant contact with Western ideology.

Sullivan said, "What we sought to uncover in this study is whether or not the preference for lighter skin still exists" in the African American community. "Clearly you could make the connection between the preference for lighter skin and the past, but the deeper question, the question that needs much more observation is the why. Why does the black community self-select? Is this preference a dormant trait, is it something psychological, or is it just that light skin is all we see in the media and that affects our choices? These are the questions that still need answering."


Jason Malloy said...

For comparison, a recent study in West Africa found that men did not have a preference for lighter skin tones.

A companion study in China, OTOH, found a strong preference for light skin tone.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Jason. I discussed these two studies in an earlier post on this page:

The main point is that this study was carried out in a traditional farming village. In sub-Saharan Africa, women perform most of the agricultural labor and men choose wives who can do such work (essentially hoe farming). African men perceive lighter-colored women as less able to do sustained outdoor farmwork, and this criterion tends to overwhelm aesthetic criteria.

matt williams said...

The Ibos have many light skinned women among them and they were a farming comunity. You can find evidence that they discrimnated either way since to them a good looking woman is a good looking woman.

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)

Anonymous said...

The safe answer ;)