From racism to colorism

Anonymous student post

In today’s society, anti-racist movements have been gaining support, to the extent that in most Western countries racism is punishable by law. Discriminating by race is starting to be acknowledged as a social taboo and discriminative actions such as declining  applicants a job opportunity due to race will not only bring negative image but can even lead to jail time. With such improvements in racial equality, one might expect that we are going towards a world without discrimination. Even though this would be truly wonderful if it were to be true, there still is room for improvement—as even in the most non-racist countries racism is still happening beneath the surface—not to mention the social phenomena (or, in other words, social problems) that are replacing racism.

One of the most widespread occurrences is racism changing to “colorism”. Colorism, is a term originally coined by Alice Walker in her 1983 book “In search of our mothers’ gardens” as she used the term to describe discrimination by color excluding factors such as bloodlines or ancestry. Even though racism also includes skin color, in colorism skin color is the sole factor behind discrimination. Especially present in Latin America, Africa, East and Southeast Asia and India however recent trend among various scholars are studies about how colorism has started to replace racism in most parts of the globe.

One could argue that change to colorism has brought several positive effects. Before it might have been impossible to break out of your “racial class”, for example if you were born to a black parent but had very light skin, you would have been deemed black nevertheless and thus discriminated against because of the bloodline. Even if you would not look that different from people around you, the race alone was enough to justify discrimination. Therefore the withdrawal of racism and change to colorism arguably brought some positive effects, as your birth would no longer decide your position in the social hierarchy.

However, when it comes down to comparing racism and colorism, rather than colorism being the cure, it is more like a “pick your poison” kind of a situation. In the 2009 book Shades of Difference, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich depict that colorism causes there to be competition even within the race while there still is competition between different races. For example, in the past blacks have been discriminated against because of their “race”, but now they are being discriminated because of the color of their skin. Not only that, but they also are discriminated among what used to be their “race”, depending on whether their skin color is lighter or darker, not to mention that colorism might take out the vocabulary to describe discrimination (Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich 2009).

So, is colorism the right direction? With colorism replacing racism and racism becoming a widespread social taboo, are we heading towards a less discriminating world? We can see that there is movement towards removing discrimination, as colorism is proof of that; however it is disturbing to see that discrimination still has its place strongly rooted in our everyday lives. It is hard to say if colorism is a proof of improvement, or if it’s just a way to sweep the problem under the mattress. Time will tell, is what I’d like to say, but then again just waiting patiently to see whether the situation gets better or not is a bad excuse not to take action.


Walker, Alice. (1983). In search of our mothers’ gardens: womanist prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brave Jovanovich

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano (Ed.). (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

The Latin Americanization of Korean race relations

by Yang Jicheol

The process of Latin Americanization is simply about keeping white supremacy from other colors. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David Dietrich introduce an example of how the U.S. follows the way of the Latin Americanization for its white supremacy, which is challenged from increasing population of other colors. There is similar example of the Latin Americanization of U.S. race relations in Korea.

As with the United States’ race relations, Korea has also experienced a similar process in terms of racial issues. That appears from young aged population because young aged population tends to be more multiracial. Many Korean consider themselves as a single-race because of same language and skin-tone. However, that single-race nation does not exist anymore. The races are becoming more complex and wider in current Korea. Many western people, whom we regard as white, come to Korea for having job or traveling. Not only western people, but other races such as Southeast Asian also come to Korea for working or marrying with Korean. In that process, a hierarchy has been constructed, which pure Korean place at the top, other western and East Asian people are middle, and others, the Southeast Asian and black people, are at the bottom.

In current Korean society, the interracial marriage rate has dramatically increased between whites with Koreans and nonwhites with Koreans as well. So, there are many multicultural children in Korea now. The multicultural children mean that children have at least two different cultural backgrounds because of their parents’ nations. At the first appearance of multicultural children, it became a hot social issue because of Korean attitudes towards them. The Korean attitudes were harsh to typical multicultural children, who are born from Southeast Asians or blacks. Unlike that attitude, it considered other multicultural children, who are born from the white or East Asian, positively. The multicultural children, born from Southeast Asian or the black, have been considered as negative perspectives such as poor background, dirty, and non-beneficial to Korean children. Nonetheless, other multicultural children have been thought differently. This perspective made Korean society to change its preference towards typical races for equality and norm, which is “We are all Korean”. To solve this problem, schools and libraries have been built only for multicultural children, especially for children having nonwhite parents. Also, government has made public advertisements to make citizen not to discriminate against them. It seemed to work at first because those children have started to respect their identity and have self esteem. Also, the harsh discrimination seemed to disappear. However, those solutions did not work actually. Although people do not tend to show their attitudes directly, they still regard those children as not real Koreans, poor, and shunned children. When we see the surface of that problem, it seems to be solved, but under of the surface, the pure Korean supremacy becomes much stronger and discrimination remains invisibly.

The reason why similar phenomenon appears in Korea is that the world has become smaller that different races are easy to move to other nations where other races are dominant. This makes diversity of race more complex in many nations. So, phenomenon of the Latin Americanization would occur in many other nations like U.S. and Korea to keep position of their majority from influx of immigrant.


Tri-Racial System and Hiding the Truth

by Lilia Yamakawa

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich’s contention is that America is developing a complex “tri-racial” system of stratified classification that will be composed of whites at the top, honorary whites in the middle, and collective blacks at the bottom.

If we consider President Barack Obama, we can see that Americans still don’t really have that classification system. “The First Black President” of the U.S. had a white mother and a black father. He was raised entirely by his white mother and his white grandparents. Still, Americans see him as a black man. Why doesn’t he fall into the “honorary white” category which includes other multi-racial people?

Americans are still seeing race in terms of black and white. Other reasons for seeing him as black may be that he seems to self identify as black. Also, his wife is black. Finally, many Americans may tend to fall into one of two groups. They may be very proud of having a black president or they may feel uncomfortable or actually not like having a black president. Either way, we’re classifying him as black and stressing his blackness. Of course, because of his position as President of the U.S, Obama is not typical and is not viewed as typical. Still, it’s interesting to think of him in terms of the author’s thesis. We can see that the biracial system is still going strong in people’s minds.

Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich also explain that the way we currently talk about race includes the idea that “We are all Americans – no matter what color we are.”  This will create a tendency to ignore the fact that racism is a problem. Ignoring the problem, white supremacy will continue, and blacks and other minorities will continue to suffer inequality. They won’t have a clear starting point to argue against discrimination.

This is something like the Burakumin issue in Japan where people don’t want to give it a name or say there is a discrimination problem. If it doesn’t have a name, maybe it will go away. But is the problem being really solved this way? Do the Burakumin still face discrimination, just more of a “smiling discrimination” in the society?

Actually I think there is less discrimination against the Burakumin in my generation than in the one before. There is no pigmentocracy in the Burakumin discrimination issue. There is no racial difference. If the older generation continues hiding who the Burakumin are, or where the Burakumin area is, it will be very difficult to distinguish them. Eventually, the problem may disappear. But we have to find out whether or not discrimination still exists.


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

The Burakumin: Japan’s invisible race . (n.d.). Retrieved from



Whitening in Intercultural Relations: Accidental or on Purpose?

by Yuta Kobayashi

For the longest time, I had always thought to myself that intercultural marriages were no different from any other form of marriage, for the purpose of establishing a family and to understand the unique aspects of one another’s identity. I never attempted to view children anything other than being the natural outcome of their parent’s love and nurture. Chapter 4 of Shades of Difference introduces a unique perspective to racial mixing, one linked with the aspect of social stratification and a reason to racial mixing in the context of Latin America and the United States.

Blanqueamiento, also known as whitening in racial mixing, has been commonly practiced throughout Latin America and the United States. As suggested by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich (2009), this concept is not only an ideology, but also “a real economic, political, and personal process” that influences an individual’s hierarchal movement. Bonilla Silva and Dietrich argue that the main reason for this “whitening” other than “neutral mixture” is for the children of these mixed racial families to move up the social strata, being given a more mobile identity and greater opportunities for racial promotion.

If the original purpose of whitening was to raise the social status of their children, can the same be said for other forms of intercultural marriage? Some of my “hafu” friends, who possess a mixed race, tell me that sometimes they do not understand why their parents came together and started a family in the first place, for the reason that time after time they encounter cultural barriers and occasional misunderstandings. Based on my assumption, I believe there is a possibility that some parents come together for their looks with expectations of their children to take on a good medium of mixed characteristics and good looks. In places such as Japan, where I live, good looks are an advantage in society. Although the content is slightly different, the point I would like to raise here is that it is not rare to see parents starting a mixed cultural family as a means to be positively recognized by society.

As suggested by Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich, whitening may come with certain social advantages, but at the same time also come with disadvantages. An important question that we should ask ourselves is, if society is to recognize these mixed racial individuals as a part of the privileged race, what are the consequences to racial mixing? My personal approach to this question is that if more and more people start to treat racial mixing as a social norm, there is a possibility of fewer people conserving the “pure blood” of a specific race. Of course, moving up the social ladder is important in reaching equality, especially for those who are facing discrimination in society. However, if more and more people become over-conscious in seeking equality, to the point where they care for social status over understanding their own identity, it will become difficult for themselves, as well as their children to find where they belong and to understand their own identity. Especially in a country where tradition and culture is to be preserved, racial mixing and other forms of cultural integration may not always be socially accepted as compared to countries such as the United States.

Chapter 4 of Shades of Difference introduces the concept of whitening and the logical reasons to why this is significant in modern society. However, in this section, one important question is left out; that is, the reason to the origins of whitening and other forms of racial mixing. This reading by itself still leaves me hanging with the question of whether the origins of whitening was actually with purpose or possibly accidental.


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

Nekita. (August 24, 2013). Rejected from both: Is mixed race “really” better? Retrieved from on October 17, 2013. From