michael banton on colours and racial difference

20Sep11

Michael Banton, ‘The colour line and the colour scale in the twentieth century’, Ethnic and Racial Studies (2011).

Some more recent evidence supports Du Bois’ prediction that the twentieth century would prove the century of the colour line. It indicates that men have always and everywhere shown a preference for fair complexioned women as sexual partners, whereas males seeking a mate are rarely disadvantaged by a dark complexion. In the employment market in the USA, a dark complexion is a significant disadvantage for both males and females. Though there is no properly comparable evidence from other countries, there appears to be a widespread tendency for any negative valuation of darker skin colour to be incorporated into a scale of socio-economic status. In some situations a colour scale is replacing the colour line.

Du Bois’ reference to differences of colour has been largely superseded in English-speaking countries by references to differences of race. From a policy standpoint, the switch from colour to race has had both positive and negative consequences. From a sociological standpoint, it has made it more difficult to disaggregate the dimensions of social difference and to dispel the confusions engendered by ideas of racial difference.



%d bloggers like this: