Abstract: Metasynthesis: Colorism in Distant Worlds, "African Americans and Central & West Africans" (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Metasynthesis: Colorism in Distant Worlds, "African Americans and Central & West Africans"

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Latocia Keyes, PhD, Post Doctoral Research Associate, University of Texas at Arlington

Research across cultural and ethnic/racial backgrounds, illustrates within a global context fair skin privileges people of color rather than dark skin, even when controlling for parental economic status and educational background. Since privilege reflects White people as models and symbols of power, intersectionality theory is used in this study to understand colorism. This theory frames the intersection of ethnicity and skin color among African Americans and Central/West Africans. These identities create dual subjugation for both, as well as, subsequent colonization and enslavement in the modern world. In the extant research on colorism, there is a gap in the literature regarding the distressing effects of colorism on African Americans and Central/West Africans. This comparison metasynthesis was conducted to fill the gap in understanding the psychosocial consequences of colorism in consideration of: (1) What are the dimensions of colorism for these Black groups, (2) How does colorism manifest, and (3) What is the basis for colorisms ongoing process considering there are historical ties with colonialism and slavery?


Secondary data collection from 2010 through 2020 and qualitative interpretive metasynthesis (QIMS) were used to synthesize separate studies that focused on colorism to form an in-depth understanding of the psychosocial consequences caused by colorism on adult African Americans compared to Central and West Africans. By means of QIMS, an inductive process was used for the original verbatim interviews, data extraction, and coded thematically. An open-coding process in Atlas.ti 8 was utilized to aid in the production of the new essence of the participants lived experiences and formulated themes per QIMS interpretive approach.


The data generated three new overarching themes, Social Constructionism, Internalized Oppression, and Lack of Life Mastery based on the participants’ colorism manifestations and ongoing colorism influence. It revealed entrenched issues with African Americans and Central/West Africans constructed from the intersectionality theory of ethnicity and skin color. Overall, health was associated with colorism and massive in the form of physical health concerns linked to skin bleaching and poor psychosocial outcomes. Historical ties with European colonialism and enslavement of African people were apparent. Even though Europeanization formed society’s worldview of the polarized meaning of Black and White, the ideology of what it means to be white is a continual reinforcement among varied Blacks regarding colorism.


Akin to racism, findings highlight colorism on the macro level as a social ill. Continued progression in the mental and social transformation of the members of a global society is needed to overthrow viewpoints and practices of discrimination based on color. Community programs that recognize the need to stop racialization on people of color will foster the understanding of the complex dynamics that take place within Black families. Curricula and ongoing research about the global phenomena of colorism is essential to mandate in accredited universities with social workers to enhance cultural competency for students and faculty. This would aid by developing policies in alignment with social work ethics on social justice for all people, inform clinical practice, and the use of best practices to prevent colorism.