“I’m not dark, I’m not light… I’m medium!”: The Colorism Experiences of Adolescent African American Girls
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
While colorism scholars often discuss the effects of skin tone bias on the lives of African American adults, Black youth are understudied. This mixed methods study analyzes the impacts skin tone bias and colorism have on African American girls’ self-concept, impression formation, affiliation with others, attraction to others, and interaction with their environment. This paper proposes a conceptual model that integrates four theoretical models (i.e., critical race theory, intersectionality theory, social identity theory, and skin tone theoretical model) to frame this research. Participants in this study range from ages 11-14 and attend school in Missouri. N=60 girls completed the quantitative online survey and N=30 girls participated in the qualitative interviews conducted by the Principal Investigator. Thirty girls completed both the quantitative and qualitative portion of this study. The majority of the girls participated in a local after-school program that caters to the needs of young girls by offering education and cultural programs to build self-efficacy and improve academic success. Study findings reveal that girls acknowledged, witnessed, and experienced skin tone bias among teachers, peers, and family members. However, girls were able to overcome negative comments through resiliency and advocacy. This research serves as a guide for social work practitioners, researchers, and educators to address skin tone preferences and the consequences of colorism when working with African American girls.
Chair and Committee
Vetta L. Sanders-Thompson
Melissa A. Jonson-Reid, Darrell L. Hudson, Kimberly J. Norwood, Tyriesa H. Howell,
Williams, Maya, "“I’m not dark, I’m not light… I’m medium!”: The Colorism Experiences of Adolescent African American Girls" (2021). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2473.