The Influence of Colorism On Racial Identification and Racial Identity Among Latinas
Methods: Qualitative research methodology in the tradition of grounded theory was used to explore Colorism among Latinas. This research involved the collection of data through in-depth interviews with thirty-one self-identified women of color between the ages of 30 and 40 years. Nine (29%) of the women have parent(s) from a Spanish-speaking country. Physically, these women fell in between the color spectrum. A deeper understanding of the complexity of race and color was sought through a hybrid interview guide consisting of both the general interview guide approach and the standardized open-ended interview approach.
Findings: Overall women reported themes of advantage based on being lighter-skinned and disadvantage based on being darker skinned in the context of their families and the Latino/a community. Several participants discussed how these experiences prompted self-questioning of their racial and ethnic identity, their sense of belonging within the family that resulted in stereotyping and contradicting classifications by others versus how they self-identified. Additionally, the majority of the women did not identify as White but recognized experiencing less prejudice and discrimination based on being lighter skinned. Yet, for many of the women “White privilege” did not feel like privilege given that being classified as White connected them to a culture that they do not feel a part of. Therefore although society might grant certain advantages for looking White, internally this label and association presented a conflict for lighter skinned participants.
Discussion: The results demonstrate the influence of Colorism on racial identification and racial identity among Latinas. Given the importance of racial identity in association with healthy mental health outcomes it is imperative that researchers and practitioners deepen their understanding of the complex racial experiences of Latinas and further social work’s commitment to social justice.