What factors lower blacks’ status? Historical reasons, or something else?

by Mai Kusakabe

Now, there is actually prejudice against black people in the world. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that the United States is developing a triracial system with whites at the top, honorary whites follow and collective black at the bottom. Thus, people decide others’ status by skin color, and tend to consider that whites are superior to blacks. Then, why does such stratification happen? Most people think that the reason is historical facts. For instance, in the 16th century, European countries started a slave trade from Africa. This historical fact may be one factor and it leads current situation of blacks. However is it really just historical reasons? I came up with one question, color images also influence on estimation of blacks and whites, don’t they?

In my opinion, most people have images with colors. For example, when we look at red, we feel like hot and passion. On contrary, when we look at blue, we feel like cold, sad, and like that. Then when we look at white color, what kind of feeling is coming up in our mind? Most of us consider it as good, clean, pure and something like these. On the other hand, we tend to consider black color as evil, fear, worry and so on. In fact, the word “white” has meaning that is like guiltiness, blameless and harmless, and one of meanings of “black” is nasty, ominous, surly and so forth. Like this, people basically do not have good impression with black color a long time ago. For instance, in Japanese anime, “名探偵コナン, Detective Conan”, a criminal is always painted by only black color.

In Japan, women try to make their skin whiter, because most people think white skin is beauty. Some people say this is admiration for whites. However is it just for white people? I think there is also admiration for white color, not only whites. For example, a long time ago 8-12 century, in Japan “Heian Jidai”, noblewomen did not even have a chance to meet foreigners, whichever whites or blacks, they put on makeup called “Oshiroi” which is white powder to make their skin white like as you can see from “Maiko” in these days. Thus, the reason why do Japanese people prefer to white skin is not only to admire whites, but also basically to admire white color.

As I stated, images of colors also have a great power to influence on our way of thinking. I think that’s one of the reason why blacks are categorized at the bottom of the stratification in the U.S. and other various countries.


Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and David R. Dietrich (2009). The Latin Americanization of U.S. Race Relations: A New Pigmentocracy. In E. Nakano-Glenn (Ed.), Shades of Difference. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Jinkawiki, Keshou (makeup), 17 October 2013. Retrieved from http://kwww3.koshigaya.bunkyo.ac.jp/wiki/index.php/%E5%8C%96%E7%B2%A7


3 thoughts on “What factors lower blacks’ status? Historical reasons, or something else?

  1. An interesting idea, but there are a couple of problems with this observation:
    i) Colours don’t always have the same meaning in different cultures. In the UK, for example, black is a colour associated with funerals. To wear a black suit at a wedding would be rude and unlucky – clearly, this is not the case in Japan. In some parts of China, I understand people dress in white for funerals.
    ii) Impressions of colour are inherently subjective. Is white the colour of purity (positive) or of sterility (negative)?
    iii) Finally, black people are not, in fact, black; nor are white people actually white.

  2. Mai Kusakabe has made interesting observations which may sometimes be applicable. We in the United States come in all of humanity’s appearance variations yet we have considerable social and economic stratification. Why? Racism is an element, and racism is an equal-opportunity disease that exists within all cultures. Inheritance is another factor, weakly linked to past injustices and conflict winners. Yet, I a nominally white person, came from poverty and worked my way up. It is not considered unusual. America was once a poor nation where nearly all were low income. Now, upward mobility among most social groups appears to be declining for reasons not yet fully understood. Personal choices partly explain why some individuals do better than others. Almost any young person who works hard at learning science and math, gets excellent grades, and seeks higher education can find scholarships. We have more scholarships available than there are eligible applicants.

    My reactions to color differ from those of Mai Kusakabe, and my neighbors’ views may differ from my views. So color, per se, is not apt to explain much. The racism we had in the past has been deeply eroded by social changes, laws, and increasing knowledge. Our best scoring academics now often are Asian and our president is black. I have worked for a black person who was one of the better leaders I had.

    The most remarkable change among our black fellow Americans has been the breakdown of the traditional man-wife-children family structure. The same change has occurred to a lesser extent among other population groupings. I don’t have a complete explanation, but the breakdown has been detrimental to children and to retirement planning.

  3. I don’t think it was intended to be at all, but I felt like this veered dangerously close to trying to be some sort of justification. Even as a neutral explanation it’s not exactly sociology…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s