The purpose of this study is to examine the dynamics between the various skin colors of African-Americans, as pertaining to their projected aspirations for education, occupation and income."Hey Alfiee, smile so we can see you." This comment epitomizes one of my most vivid memories of childhood: riding a school bus filled with fellow cheerleaders and football players, home from an away football game late one evening. I remember immediately understanding that the joke was meant as a commentary on the darkness of my skin and the supposed stigma associated with such. I also remember how hurtful the comment was in large part because the taunt came from another African American classmate. Mine is just one example of the pain often associated with skin color in the African American community. Consequences abound for African Americans of varying hues; a phenomenon of many names including colorism, color consciousness, and colorstruck, with the unifying theme being that African Americans of varied skin tones experience widely different treatment both within and across racial groups. The following book by Dr. Ronald E.
Hall explores the widely recognized, yet seldom discussed phenomenon of skin color in the African American community, which he calls "The Bleaching Syndrome," using empirical evidence and critical analysis of both the historical and present-day experiences of African Americans in the areas of education, occupation, and income. His approach is innovative in both style and substance. Although other scholars have explored skin color among African Americans and its consequences in the socioeconomic strata, few have done so with the rigor included in this book. The book begins with an exploration of the genesis of skin color and education, a topic familiar to most African Americans. Succinctly stated, it should be no surprise that the origins of the disparate outcomes associated with skin color among African Americans are rooted in the practice and legacy of American slavery. Dr. Hall takes this oft-cited information and expounds on it by including an exploration of how education itself played an integral part in the stratification of African Americans vis-a-vis skin color.
The book continues with an exploration of the genesis of skin color and occupation, a topic that has been explored most notably in works by Ronald Hall , himself, and by Keith and Herring .In this section, Dr. Hall argues persuasively that an African American's skin color has profound effects on both his or her occupational aspirations and career outcomes. Given today's climate and the focus on "leaving no child behind," it behooves us to attend to the multitude of ways, both overt and insidious, in which individual occupational advancement might be either hindered or advanced. The 1999 book, "Our Kind of People", by Lawrence Otis Graham, explored the Black Elite, multigenerational families of African Americans with significant wealth and power. For many people outside the African American community, the mere existence of such a group came as a great shock, but I propose that for most African Americans, the existence of this group, and its high preponderance of lighter-skinned African Americans, was not shocking at all. Therein lays one premise of Dr.
Hall's superb chapter on the genesis of skin color and income, in which he provides a historical view of the origins of the disparities in African American income based on skin color as well as the current day manifestations of this phenomenon. Finally, Dr. Hall provides us with a comprehensive exploration of and explanation for the many contemporary implications of skin color for African Americans, lest we be lulled into the false sense that skin color no longer matters for African Americans. As compelling as it might sound to suggest that skin color is no longer an issue for African Americans, given the increasing racial diversity of the United States, the continued diversification of the Black American community (given Caribbean and African immigration patterns) and the lessening taboo of interracial marriage leading to biracial and multiracial children, it would be irresponsible for us to conclude that skin color no longer matters in African American life. Indeed, the findings from Dr. Hall's innovative study, described in chapters six and seven, help us to understand otherwise. Further, what makes Dr.
Hall's findings so compelling is their empirical basis as he provides us with rigorous scientific evidence instead of conjecture and anecdotes. Because of his desire for scientific rigor, attention to detail and clear understanding of the historical underpinnings and contemporary corollaries of the Bleaching Syndrome (explored in chapter eight), Dr. Hall has provided us with an outstanding tome on the consequences of racial discrimination turned inward. I sincerely commend Dr. Hall for his bold foray into a controversial topic and his mastery of presenting difficult findings with compassion and aplomb.