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discrimination, employment discrimination


Reprinted in Mixed Race America: A Critical Reader, Kevin R. Johnson, ed. (2002).


In this article, Professor Banks argues that colorism, skin tone discrimination against dark-skinned but not light-skinned blacks, constitutes a form of race-based discrimination. Skin tone discrimination coexists with more traditional forms of race discrimination that impact all blacks without regard to skin tone and phenotype, yet courts seem unwilling to recognize this point. Professor Banks uses employment discrimination cases to illustrate some courts' willingness to acknowledge subtler forms of race-based discrimination, like skin tone discrimination, for white ethnic and Latina/o plaintiffs, but not for black plaintiffs. The inability of courts to fashion coherent approaches to colorism claims involving black claimants means that dark-skinned blacks will continue to experience more extreme forms of race discrimination than experienced by light-skinner blacks. In addition, failure to address colorism by black litigants will have broader implications as courts face the more complex race-like cases likely [to] occur in the twenty-first century.

Publication Citation

47 U.C.L.A. Law Review 1705 (2000).


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Labor and Employment Law | Law | Law and Race