Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Research Shows Black Women With Lighter Skin, Have Lighter Prison Sentence Than Women With Dark Skin

Many African Americans are familiar with the incessant discussion regarding light versus dark skin and the supposed advantages one may have over the other. Ever since Nella Larsen’s novella “Passing,”, in which the main character, Irene Redfield, a light-skinned African American woman passing for white, reveals the hidden implications regarding race, with respect to the perception that being white is better than black and inferior.

A new study just published in in The Social Science Journal (Volume: 48, Issue: 1, Pages: 258-250) called “The impact of light skin on prison time for black female offenders,” may add some evidence supporting the affirmation of Larsen’s premise. The study, conducted by Jill Viglione, Lance Hannon, and Robert DeFina, are researchers at Villanova University. provides strong evidence that lighter skin color is significantly correlated with a lighter prison sentence.

Based on data, collected from the records of 12,158 women incarcerated in North Carolina prisons between 1995 and 2009., inclusive of information regarding inmate hair color, eye color, height, weight, body type and skin tone (light skin tone is assigned a code of 1, and dark skin tone is assigned a code of 0), revealed that with respect to prison sentences, women noted to be of light skin were sentenced to 12% less time behind bars than their darker skinned confederates.

This finding was consistent even when controlling for prior history of incarceration, conviction date, prison misconduct, and body type. Moreover researchers also controlled for if the woman was convicted of homicide or robbery – crimes that have longer sentences. Upon which they also observed that having light skin reduces the actual time served by approximately 11%.

According to the authors as presented in the abstract, “The present analysis extends this line of inquiry by examining how perceived skin tone (assessed by correctional officers) is related to maximum prison sentence and actual time served,” and that their findings “indicated that black women deemed to have a lighter skin tone received more lenient prison sentences and served less time behind bars.”


msladydeborah said...

This indicates to me that the white confederates are colorist and practice in peculiar ways that they probably do not think about or consider relevant.

The results could have an impact on how sentences are handed out. Or it could continue to pit light skinned and dark skinned sistas against each others.

rainywalker said...

In theory this would mean white people don't go to jail at all? Is that across the entire country or just some geographical areas?

nicki nicki tembo said...

Color and race have played a significant role in the U.S. judicial system since its inception. Snap shots of prison populations alone confirm a greater porportion of darker men and women. Notwithstanding the numerous stats that exist which confirm that blacks continue to be sentenced at higher rates and for longer periods than other racial groups proportionate to population. This isn't to say other racial groups or lighter peoples aren't being sentenced they just haven't/aren't at the rate that darker skinned people have/are.

Nearly 50 years ago Frantz Fanon pointed out that a person's proximity to white ancestry tended to confer some advantages over darker skinned people. "Black Skin, White Mask" and "The Wretched of the Earth" are two excellent books which probe this psycho-social phenomenon.

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