Colorism in American Workplace


The aim of tis literature review is to discuss the status of colorism or discrimination based on the color of skin in the American workplace. This is a topic that is most often ignored as an assumption is made that every workplace is free of discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. In fact colorism has become the un-discussed “ism” at American workplace (Harrison, Matthew). I do not argue that this type of discrimination is happening everywhere but I want to put up a case that we still have a long road to travel until our workplaces are free of prejudice and bias based on colorism.

Literature Review

The issue of discrimination based on the color of skin is a topic that has been the influence of man researches over the recent times. America has evolved as a society towards an overall positive but there are still issues that would need to be addressed at present and future to make the society free of racism and colorism. I have kept the scope of my discussion to colorism at the workplace. There discrimination does not start when a person of color has started to work, it starts from the time of the interview. There are reported cases when African Americans have been treated differently by white interviewers due to the color of their skin (Hannon and DeFina). Black applicants who were eligible to be given a certain job were rejected while other applicant were selected instead who has either less education or less experience or both. The government is doing a lot to stop discrimination based on the color of skin or ethnicity when it comes to job provision but, I believe that there needs to be more efforts. If organization are involved in such practices where they are not employing people because they are from a certain color background, how can we even discuss the behavior of these organization in relation to treating people of color in any way?

The other issue related to colorism at work places that needs to be looked at from a critical view point is the discrimination women face at work places based on them being women of color plus being a women. This is double fold issue where the discrimination has not one but two reasons. Researches have been conducted and it has been suggested that women or color have been victims of workplace discrimination more than white women have been. There is evidence that black women have been subjected to racism and discrimination at their jobs which have had serious health reparations. A literature review research conducted on black women of the US who work at different places and different positions have indicated that there is a general feeling among these women that they do not get fair treatment from their employers. In many cases this claim has been found to be true. This situation has caused to negatively affect the psychological health of these women. These women are more prone to stress (Mays, Coleman, and Jackson). This research indicates that we cannot just let go such a situation because it’s not the workplace where these women of color feel stressed out but also this could convert in to a psychological disease which could then require professional help in the form of psychotherapy or even medication. The same research also indicated that black women so want to work in different fields but they have a perception made up in their mind that they will not be welcomed at the jobs they want to join. Such general perception about work places is understandable. Steps need to be taken to first, make workplace free of any kind of discrimination, second, convince women of color that they have to be confident enough to make a change and opt to work even if there are some unforeseen problems. They can set an example for the coming generations. I believe that we need to educate our children at schools to avoid such behaviors where they can psychologically damage other people because they are different from them based on the color of their skin or gender.

The role of media industry cannot be ignored when the issue of color is discusses. We are all aware that there are strict laws and regulations to ensure that there is equal opportunity for people from any color background at workplaces. Do all of accept this as a fact that there is no discrimination in the media industry based on color bias? I don’t think so. The media industry might have got politically correct in relation to claims of providing equal opportunity to but there are less and less black actors in the Hollywood movies and there are none black actors to be nominated for the Oscar Awards as we have seen in the last two years i.e. 2015-16. Research in this regard has indicated that there are “preferences” in awarding roles to actors based on colorism (Harrison, Reynolds-Dobbs, and Thomas). This is a proof that the one workplace i.e. media industry which everyone believes to be clean of colorism is in fact also polluted with it. Media is undoubtedly a medium that has a bigger role to play of all to educate the masses against the evils of colorism but if media itself cannot be trusted in such issues who else can be? I believe that we will soon get the maturity that is expected of the media industry and it will not only diminish discrimination based on color from its ranks but will also play an active role by producing programs that are aimed at educating people about colorism and all other evils.

I would like to conclude this paper by hoping that work place in America will take the necessary steps to get rid of workplace discrimination and bias based on colorism. I don’t believe that such a major change will happen overnight but I am hopeful of the future. With more and more people getting quality education at schools at homes regarding the productive society we could have if we say no to colorism at any place can make the dream of equality come true.



Hannon, Lance, and Robert DeFina. “Just Skin Deep? The Impact of Interviewer Race on the      Assessment of African American Respondent Skin Tone.” Race Soc Probl 6.4 (2014):   356-364. Print.

Harrison, Matthew S. “Colorism: The often un-discussed “-ism” in America’s workforce.” The      Jury Expert 22 (2010): 67-77.

Harrison, Matthew S., Wendy Reynolds-Dobbs, and Kecia M. Thomas. “Skin color bias in the      workplace: The media’s role and implications toward preference.” Racism in the 21st   century. Springer New York, 2008. 47-62.

Mays, Vickie M., Lerita M. Coleman, and James S. Jackson. “Perceived race-based            discrimination, employment status, and job stress in a national sample of Black women:     Implications for health outcomes.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 1.3         (1996): 319.